Recent Resources for Feminists
Sunday Magazine ~ November 23 2014
The Other Half
No more births... or deaths
By KALPANA SHARMA
Women who underwent sterilisation surgeries receive treatment in Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh (PTI)
Women continue to pay the price for the government’s desire to fast-forward population control programmes through sterilisation.
Should we forget about the 14 poor women in Chhattisgarh who died earlier this month? Can we write this off as another “unfortunate” incident? Or should we see it as reminder of the fundamental question that Indian policymakers need to ask: are Indian women, especially poor women, entitled to respect and rights due all human beings or will they continue to be viewed as baby-producing machines whose bodies the State can appropriate and control when it deems they have completed their assigned task?
The debate has been sparked by the ghastly tragedy that befell some of the 83 women who were herded into a disused hospital in Takhatpur, Bilaspur district, and subjected to laparoscopic tubectomies within a few hours. The same instrument was used. No time for sterilisation. No time to check if the women were in good enough health to undergo the surgery. And no time to relax and recover before being packed off. And, of course, no one to follow up to see whether they survived the journey home.
Within a day, eight women were dead. In the next days, in other locations where similar sterilisation camps were held, another six died, 14 in all. The doctor who performed the 83 tubectomies – he was rewarded earlier this year for having performed 50,000 tubectomies – was arrested. He says he was not at fault and insists that the women died from consuming contaminated drugs post-operation. It is suspected that the ciprofloxacin tablets given to the women were contaminated with zinc phosphide, a rat poison. And the state government refuses to explain why such a camp was held at a disused, run-down private hospital.
Everyone is blaming someone else. In the midst of all this noise, and the silence that has descended on the homes of the dead women, we must remember that what happened in Chhattisgarh earlier this month is not an exception, a one-off aberration that we can all forget about once the blame is fixed. Between 2003 and 2012, on an average 12 women die due to botched tubectomies. That is 12 too many. No woman should die from this procedure.
Also, whatever government officials might say to the media, the reality is that health workers are expected to fulfil targets by bringing women to these sterilisation camps. If such pressure was not exerted on them, it is possible that fewer women would come. But at least those who agreed to be sterilised would do so after having understood the consequences. And doctors would not rush through with the procedure at the vulgar speed as did the doctor in Chhattisgarh.
Government officials have consistently argued, as they do even today, that sterilisation is the best option for a poor woman with more than two children because she cannot insist her husband uses a condom and she cannot use other spacing methods, such as injectables for instance, because of the absence of health care in the case of complications. But by the same measure, how do governments justify sterilising women and sending them back to their villages without any follow-up? The women who died did so because they could not access emergency health care in time.
Even if poor women opt for sterilisation, surely they are entitled some dignity while undergoing the procedure. We thought the days when women were lined up like cattle, as depicted so starkly in Deepa Dhanraj’s path-breaking 1991 film “Something like a war” ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Fq7HSIPVq4), was something in the past, harking back to the days of the 1975 Emergency when mass sterilisation campaigns were implemented ruthlessly across India. But Chhattisgarh reminds us that this is happening even today, although on a smaller scale.
So respect for poor women is the very minimum that must inform any population programme. India has signed an international convention in 1994 committing itself to guaranteeing women their reproductive choice and rights. Simply put, this means that all women have the right to choose the kind of contraceptive method they want to use. It also means that population programmes must be centered on women’s health and choice.
Clearly, this is so much talk without substance. In 20 years, under one guise or another, central and state governments have continued with the policy of targets and camps. And women are those who are targeted, not men. The skew in the population programmes is more than evident, even if one looks at government data.
Also, despite scores of meeting, conferences, policy documents, including the National Population Policy (2000) that links a decline in fertility to many other aspects such as education, overall health, housing, drinking water and sanitation, the desire to fast-forward population programmes through sterilisation appears irresistible to policy makers of all political hues.
As a result, women continue to pay the price for this persistent myopia – especially poor women.
Sunday November 23 2014
Oops, sorry, we’ve killed you
16 women dying in a sterilisation camp in Chhattisgarh was no isolated incident, 15 women die on an average across the country every month during and after botched-up family planning operations
By Aditi Tandon
Patients recovering at a Bilaspur hospital after complications following sterilisation operations at a special camp. Sixteen women who underwent sterilisation in the camp died. (AFP)
S hocking stories of disregard for human life continue to surface from Chhattisgarh’s Bilaspur, where 16 women recently lost their lives following a botched-up sterilisation camp at a local hospital.
Those who survived told investigators how they woke up during the procedure to feel unbearable pain and see fallopian tubes coming out of their abdomen. Their shared memory of laparoscopic tubectomy, a common family planning practice in India’s seven high focus states with the largest share of population, is of horror, pain and shocking neglect.
None of these women were told by the operating doctor if they were fit to undertake the procedure, though it is mandatory under Government of India manuals to inform acceptors of female sterilisation the status of their health before they agree to a procedure.
But in testimony after testimony from Bilaspur, survivors have spoken of their urine and blood samples being taken but no reports being shared.
All they remember is they were hastily herded towards unclean beds where they lay shoulder to shoulder as someone administered them injections (local anaesthesia). That the sedation was ineffective is clear from the fact that majority of these women woke up in pain screaming for relief while the doctor, now arrested, continued the procedure, finishing 83 tubectomies in five hours.
All participants were discharged within minutes of the operation despite the requirement of overnight post-operative care under the Government of India rules. They went off with sachets of medicines later found contaminated with rat poison.
Although the Bilaspur deaths remain by far the darkest chapter in the history of female sterilisations in India, deaths and complications in tubectomy camp settings are routine.
Every month, around 15 women on an average die on account of botched-up sterilisations, a permanent method of birth control which forms 37.3 per cent of India’s 48.4 per cent contraception figure.
Records of the Family Planning Division of Ministry of Health reveal that between 2008 and March of 2012, 675 cases of deaths of women post-sterilisation procedures were accounted for.
Families of these victims were legally compensated under the little-known National Family Planning Insurance Scheme the ICICI Lombard Bank runs in collaboration with the Centre. The scheme, effective since November 29, 2005, offers the following packages – Rs 2 lakh for death following sterilisation in the hospital or within a week of discharge; Rs 50,000 for death following sterilisation within eight to 30 days of discharge; Rs 30,000 for a failed procedure; and Rs 25,000 for any complication within 60 days of discharge from the hospital.
By the Health Ministry’s admission, payment worth over Rs 50.76 crore was made between 2010-11 and 2013-14 for 363 deaths and 14,901 surgery failures. During this period, 15,264 cases of sterilisation deaths, failures and severe complications were officially recorded and for each case, an average of Rs 33,255 per person was paid.
Needless to say, the maximum burden of complications was reported from the six very high focus states which practice female sterilisations with impunity to meet the national Total Fertility Rate (average number of children per woman) target of 2.1. These states are Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh.
Women survivors of Chhattisgarh sterilisations recently said they went for surgeries because they had no other option and wanted to control their families. All of them admitted to having been motivated by Accredited Social Health Activists whom the Centre pays incentives to encourage couples to opt for birth control methods.
A Community Health Centre doctor in the state when asked if targets were prescribed acknowledged the trend, saying, “I personally have a target of around 800 sterilisations a year. One can never achieve more than 60 per cent. Non-achievers are publicly humiliated by government functionaries while achievers are publicly rewarded.”
Dr RK Gupta, under whose watch 16 out of 83 acceptors of tubectomies died in Bilaspur, was last year rewarded by Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh for completing 50,000 tubectomies.
Feb 2012: Sterilisation camp at Kaparfora govt middle school, Araria, Bihar: 53 women operated in two hours; pregnant Dalit miscarries; many suffer physical harm
2010: Bundi camp, Rajasthan: 88 pc women not told of permanence of procedure; only 3 of 11 mandated pre-operative tests done; mother of three dies
Aug 2013: Odisha: Researchers document cases where women in labour are forced to agree to tubal ligation after they deliver the second child at a health facility
Nov 2013: Shanti Mahanand dies of excessive bleeding after sterilisation at Bargarh, Odisha. Vein cut in haste to operate
2011-12: In UP, 79 women aged 15 to 19 sterilised against GOI manuals which allow procedures only on women above 25 years.
Sunday November 23 2014
Setting targets, missing aim
The Government of India may have abandoned the targeted approach to family planning in 1996 in deference to international conventions like the CEDAW which it signed, but it continued to promote incentives for sterilisations, boosting it as a preferred mode of birth control in India.
Since 1981, the government has been implementing a centrally-sponsored scheme to compensate acceptors of sterilisation for loss of wages for the day on which he or she attends the medical facility for undergoing the procedure.
Wages under the scheme have been frequently revised, and the last revision took place on September 7, 2007 when the compensation for male sterilisation (vasectomy) in a government facility was raised from Rs 1,000 to Rs 1,500 per person and for female sterilisation (tubectomy) from Rs 800 to 1,000.
Similar procedures in private settings attract more incentives – Rs 1,500 each for vasectomy and tubectomy.
The reason for increasing numbers of sterilisations in private camp settings is also hidden in the Centre’s own data on incentives for sterilisations.
When conducted in public facilities, the majority incentive goes to the acceptor of sterilisation but when conducted in a private facility, it goes to the facility and the motivator.
So, of the Rs 1,000 compensation for female sterilisation in a government hospital, the acceptor gets Rs 600 as against Rs 150 for the motivator; Rs 100 for drugs and dressing; Rs 75 for the surgeon; Rs 15 each for the nurse and operation theatre technician; Rs 10 for refreshments and Rs 10 for camp management.
In the private facility, however, the acceptor of sterilisation gets no money. Of the promised Rs 1,500 per surgery, Rs 1,350 goes to the facility and the remaining to the motivator.
“This incentive-based approach to sterilisations must end. The government has the responsibility of providing couples with a basket of contraceptive choices where the preference should be for spacing methods instead of permanent methods of birth control such as sterilisations. Let us not forget, 96 per cent sterilisations in India still involve women,” says Poonam Muttreja of the Population Foundation of India.
All women’s groups agree with the need to do away with incentives for sterilisations which they say are as good as target setting. Health Minister JP Nadda, however insists, “The Centre does not set any targets for sterilisations. Family planning is a voluntary, consent-based movement.”
Camps to meet numbers
The Centre has for the purpose of monitoring population growth categorised states into three, depending on their Total Fertility Rates (TFRs) or the average number of children per woman.
There are six very high focus states with TFR of more than or equal to 3; high focus states with TFR more than 2.1 and less than 3 and non high focus states with less than or equal to 2.1 TFR.
Evidence shows sterilisation camps for females are mostly organised in very high focus and high focus states which are constantly under pressure to deliver the TFR targets. Incidentally, it was also in these very states that the most significant dip in population growth rates was recorded as per 2011 Census.
Health Ministry insiders acknowledge that India’s goal of reaching TFR of 2.1 by 2015 depends mainly on the performance of very high focus and high focus states which, in turn, resort to mass female sterilisations in camps to push targets.
SAMA, a women’s group working on reproductive rights, has now called for a blanket ban on camp sterilisations. Imrana Qadeer, a women’s right activist, says, “According to the Registrar General of India, the very high focus states will take 25 years to reach the TFR of 2.1 if the family planning programme is implemented in its mandated voluntary form. You can see why these states are pushing for the camp approach.”
The Health Ministry’s own compilations reveal that the very high focus states wait for central family planning funds to land in the fag end of the year so these can be used to sterilise women in camps and meet the yearly sterilisation targets which almost all states set.
Brinda Karat of CPM says camp sterilisation of women in private settings is the worst form of human rights violation. “What you need is a 24 by 7 public health service where women wishing for permanent birth control can access sterilisation when they want. Why should there be camps?” she asks.
877 tubectomies a day!
Chhattisgarh, a very high focus state, has a TFR of 2.8 and sterilises on an average 344 women every day. Bihar, with the highest TFR of 3.7 in India, sterilises on an average 1,492 women a day; Madhya Pradesh with a TFR of 3.2 resorts to 1,512 female sterilisations daily on an average. Rajasthan with a TFR of 3.1 sterilises on an average 840 women a day and UP with 3.5 TFR conducts an average of 877 tubectomies a day.
The latest data available with the Centre for 2011-2012 reveals a whopping 49,06,430 sterilisations being conducted in a single year across India. Of these, 47.3 lakh (over 95 pc) involved tubectomies as against 1.75 lakh vasectomies on men.
Sunday November 23 2014
Huge unmet need for family planning
Spacing between two childbirths in India is less than three years in 61 pc of all births. (File photo)
Population experts feel the focus of the Centre is grossly misplaced. Though India had in 1952 become the first country to launch a national programme emphasising family planning, it has not achieved much in terms of results. By 2050, it is projected to surpass China’s population and by 2026, it would be home to 1.4 billion people as against 1.21 billion today.
Contrast these challenges with access to contraception and one traces a huge gap. Contraceptive use among married women aged 15 to 49 years is just 56.3 per cent. Though the wanted fertility rate across India, as revealed by the National Family Health Survey-3, is 1.9, the actual national Total Fertility Rate is 2.1.
Clearly, there is a huge unmet need for family planning. “Yes the need is 22 per cent as per the District Level Health Survey of 2008,” admit Health Ministry officials. They add that spacing between two childbirths in India is less than the recommended three years in 61 per cent of all births. That explains female sterilisations as the easy option to attain population stabilisation goals.
“It is not just easy, it is financially rewarding with little or no accountability for operating doctors, who treat women as cattle. In none of these sterilisation camps are doctors ever equipped with gloves, disinfectants, equipment or clean linen to ensure safe procedures,” says Devika Biswas, the Araria-based activist currently pursuing in the Supreme Court a petition that documents the horrors of India’s female sterilisation camps and calls for strict directions to states which treat women as tools to meet TFR targets.
In January 2012, a single surgeon performed sterilisations on 54 women in a government school in Kaparfora of Bihar’s Araria district. Spending less than two minutes per surgery, he left the women writhing in pain with most of them finding themselves in a pool of blood. The case led to a petition in the Supreme Court, which is seeking directions to states to follow Government of India’s sterilisation guidelines. The final arguments are due on December 2.
The guidelines had come into force following another SC judgment in 2005 which called for protection of women’s dignity during sterilisations.
“We have documented a series of violations of guidelines which say that not more than 30 surgeries can be held in a day; no camp will be held in schools; 18 people must form the team at each sterilisation camp and every state must maintain a record of women’s consent forms complete with their age, number of children and health condition,” says Biswas.
States are also supposed to ensure that each sterilised woman is given a certificate of the procedure as proof of surgery. “In 80 per cent cases, women are not given a certificate of sterilisation. So, deaths or complications are never recorded,” says activist Ramakant Rai, whose petition in the Apex Court had forced the Health Ministry to lay down Male and Female Sterilisation Guidelines and Manuals.
Issue 60 (Fall/Winter 2014): Themed Issue on Violence Against Women: Strategizing a Radical Response for the 21st Century
UNRELENTING BACKLASH - How Male Violence Against Women Continues To Be Depoliticised
By Jennifer Drew
The Women’s Movement of the 1970’s succeeded in making male violence against women a visible political issue, showing how men employ violence to maintain and justify male domination over all women. It is not necessary for all men to commit violence against women because the incessant threat of male violence supported by men’s institutions and structures is sufficient in itself to maintain male domination over all women. Feminists during the 1970’s revealed how individual violent men are accorded impunity to inflict violence upon women and how male controlled institutions such as the law and male controlled political systems operate to justify, excuse and deny systemic male violence against women and girls.
Radical feminists during the 1970's created rape crisis centers and women’s refuges to support women who had been subjected to male violence. But these rape crisis centers and refuges were not merely “service centers”, rather they were grass roots organisations which enabled women collectively to campaign against male violence against women and demand real political and social changes which would curb men’s socio-economic power over women. As a result new laws and social practices were introduced by governments which were designed to prevent male violence against women and provide justice for the female victims of male violence. However, these laws and social practices have all to commonly been ineffective and instead are used to blame the female victims and mitigate male violence against women. The male backlash against feminist demands for an end to male violence against women was swiftly enacted. Forty years after the Women's Liberation Movement of the 1970’s, we are currently in a situation where men’s rights activists are using myriad ways to maintain men’s fiction that male violence against women is not a political method of maintaining and justifying male supremacy over women on a global scale.
Whilst it is now acceptable for society to openly recognise that (male) violence against women exists, there is the corollary that each report is portrayed as just another isolated incident and/or the male perpetrators were in thrall to uncontrollable emotions! Lethal intimate male partner violence against women is always reported by mainstream media as “a family tragedy” because the male perpetrator was “a family man driven to despair by outside influences such as debt, unemployment and/or marital disputes.” The term “marital dispute” implies the female victim was partially responsible for causing her own death because she had a dispute with her male/ex male partner! These claims mitigate/erase men’s choice and agency to take lethal revenge against their female/ex female partner and/or her children.
Mainstream media ensures there is no “connecting the dots” such as asking why do not these men leave and move on with their lives? Or why do they make the choice to murder their female/ex female partners and/or her children prior to committing suicide? Given these men are supposedly “devoted family men” why do they make the choice to murder children they have fathered and supposedly love? These questions must not be asked because it would mean focusing on male ownership of women and their children. All these men believe and enact male supremacist ideology that once a male has entered into a sexual relationship with a woman she and any resulting children are the man's private property. Only the man has the right of ending the sexual relationship, not the woman; so when a woman dares to end her relationship with the man she must be punished and all too commonly her children, too. The issue is about male ownership of women and children.
Mainstream media is male owned and male dominated and hence is a very effective male propaganda tool. The mainstream media maintains the fiction that men are now the oppressed group because of supposedly feminist, man-hating initiated laws and social policies which deny men their lawful right of male control/male ownership over women and children. But it is not just mainstream media which depoliticises pandemic male violence against women because innumerable documents and policies produced by international bodies such as the United Nations and national governments all enact the same hiding strategies. These policies, documents, and reports all reference “violence against women” and/or the latest euphemistic term which is “gender based violence against women”!
The term “gender based violence against women” does not inform the reader who is responsible for committing violence against women. “Gender” is a descriptive term not a human entity. “Gender” cannot commit violence against women so who is being protected by not being named? Perhaps it is women because “gender” is commonly perceived as attributable to women since men have always claimed male as the default generic human and hence no need to name men/males as men/males. Obviously the entities being protected are men because naming men/males as the perpetrators will immediately instigate a male backlash of claims “you are demonising men” or “not all men are violent!” Because men are the dominant class they accord themselves the right to define when and if men will be named and interestingly men only appear when the issue concerns male/female equality such as “treating men and women equally”. When men are held accountable they always disappear and are the absent male presence.
Likewise academic reports, papers, and research findings all invisibilize the male agent and perpetrator. Philips and Henderson (1999) analysed a sample of articles on the subject of male violence published in popular and scientific journals between 1994 and 1996. Out of a total of 165 summaries and 11 articles the phrase “male violence” was mentioned only eight times whereas words such as rape, abuse, violence and domestic violence appeared 1,044 times. These researchers also noted that the sex of the victim was commonly stated by words such as “female or woman” and “abuser/perpetrator” was stated 327 times rather than the words “man/male”. Phillips and Henderson's conclusion was that “when the sex of the perpetrator is not specified and the violence described only includes the identity of the female victim; male violence against women is constituted as a problem of women.” Moreover in the articles considered in this study, code words such as domestic violence, marital violence, and family violence used to describe the exclusively male violence against women actually convey the message that women are as violent as men.” (Philips and Henderson, 1999: 20). Therefore it is acceptable to talk about violence but never about “male violence”.
One of the central tenets arising from the Women’s Movement in the 1970's was naming men as the ones responsible for committing violence against women because feminists recognised that not naming the perpetrators ensures society's focus is on scrutinising women and blaming them for supposedly provoking or causing male violence against them. Naming men as the agents responsible directly challenges male power over women. Because many feminist organisations are reliant on male controlled political funding for their existence, this has resulted in widespread capitulation to male demands not to name men as the perpetrators. Instead these feminist organisations have enacted pseudo “gender equality policies” wherein the politics of male domination over women must never be stated and issues such as the men’s pimping industry (prostitution) and women trafficking are re-framed as “sex work” and “human trafficking.” The former promotes men’s lie that prostitution is just work not systemic male sexual violence against women and the latter collapses slave labor and women trafficking into one term “human trafficking” whereby, as usual, the politics of male oppression over women is rendered invisible. Many feminist organisations continue to enact the passive term “violence against women” or the increasingly dominant phrase “gender based violence against women.” Both terms maintain male invisibility and erase male accountability.
Other methods of depoliticising pandemic male violence against women is the claim that men are victims of violence, too. This claim is used to deflect attention away from what men are systematically subjecting women to and once again ensure men’s interests and rights are the only real and important issues. The widespread myth that male on female violence and female on male violence is symmetrical is based on Strauss and Gelles Conflicts Tactics Scale which was developed during the 1970’s.
This was a quantitative measure of what Strauss termed “intra-family conflict” and “family problems.” Male and female respondents were asked what conflict tactics they used, such as verbal aggression, reasoning and violence in order to resolve issues within their family. Strauss' findings appeared to support men’s claim that women are as violent as men within the family. Strauss' report was entitled “Physical Assaults by Wives: A Major Social Problem” (Strauss 1993). Strauss stated “women initiate and carry out physical assaults on their partners as often as men do.” This statement has been taken up by men’s rights groups and other anti-feminists as evidence that women and men commit violence against each other equally. However, Strauss in the same report also stated “Family problem research has found that the ‘assaults’ documented in this CTS-derived data rarely cause injury and are a major social problem not because they harm men but because they help legitimate male violence and men’s serious assaults against women.” (Strauss: 1993: 67). Interestingly, when men and their female apologists utter the statement “men are victims of violence, too” they do not propose any action concerning how to eliminate “violence against men” or mention it is overwhelmingly male on male violence which is the problem, not female on male violence.
The Women’s Movement sought to eradicate misogynistic male created myths which blamed women for male sexual violence committed against them. However, pandemic women blaming has once more become dominant and widely accepted as “common sense.” Men’s rights activists and non-feminists have successfully promoted the lie that male sexual predators are the “real victims” and women are the sexual predators/perpetrators! The infamous Steubenville Rape Case is not unique, rather it is a snapshot of what commonly happens wherein patriarchal reversal is enacted to hide male accountability. Males charged with sexual crimes against females are portrayed as “the innocent victims whose lives have been destroyed by nasty vindictive, lying women/girls who falsely accuse innocent males of rape/male sexual violence perpetrated against them.” Rapes and male sexual violence against women and girls are, according to male rape apologists, as rare as the unicorn, whereas females falsely charging males with rape/male sexual violence is a pandemic!
In addition public service messages emanating from various government institutions and mainstream media articles are all fixated on curtailing women’s right of freedom of movement and holding them personally accountable for their own safety. These propaganda messages to women and girls tell them they must not go out alone after dark and they must not wear revealing clothing because this provokes males into subjecting them to male sexual violence. Women must not consume alcohol in public because female consumption of alcohol tells men “the woman is sexually available to them”! Any woman who is attacked by a male anywhere irrespective of whether or not it was in the public sphere or private domain – she, not the male perpetrator, is accountable because she failed to enact sufficient safety measures!
The Women’s Movement in the 1970’s challenged pandemic female victim blaming and analysed how and why innumerable males commit sexual violence against women and girls and deny their accountability. Male sexuality as a social construction was subjected to feminist analysis and feminists recognised men accord themselves male (pseudo) sex right of access to females by claiming their sex is not accountable, because women alone are responsible for gate keeping supposedly insatiable and uncontrollable male sexual desire. The Women’s Movement challenged male myths that “rape is about power not sex” because feminists recognised rape and male sexual violence against women is overwhelmingly about male eroticisation of sexual violence perpetrated against women and girls.
Many feminist organisations specialising on challenging (male) violence against women and girls focus solely on calling for educational reforms in order to teach girls and boys about “sexual consent”. The politics of male sexuality has been successfully obliterated and the term “sexual consent” is supposedly key to ensuring male sexual violence is not inadvertently (sic) perpetrated against women and girls! Conveniently erased is the fact girls and boys do not grow up in a vacuum; they are inundated with incessant misogynistic messages of male sexual entitlement to females via mainstream media, men’s pornography industry and popular culture. Men’s male supremacist legal institutions continue to justify/excuse/deny male accountability by claiming existing laws on rape are “gender neutral” rather than created from the male lived experience. And it is thought that focusing on teaching girls and boys individually about “sexual consent” will somehow magically erase embedded institutional structures and systems which normalize male eroticisation of sexual power over women and girls and uphold dominant beliefs that males are never accountable for their sexual actions, behavior or choices!
Implementation of gender neutrality is an insidious form of male denial of institutional and individual male domination and control over women. Currently in the United Kingdom specialist feminist refuge services are being denied central government funding and instead non-specialist generic service providers are being awarded contracts by central government to operate these refuges. Some areas of the UK have already experienced existing refuge centers being shut down, leaving women with nowhere to go. Instead non-specialist services are taking over and they are generic – meaning there is no recognition whatsoever that intimate partner violence is not symmetrical whereby equal numbers of women and men are subjected to the same violence. The politics of how and why innumerable men inflict violence in all its forms on their female partners is being erased by claims of “gender neutrality”.
Why is this happening? Sadly various feminist organisations have fragmented and there is currently no collective activism opposing male controlled government policies which refuse to accept women and men are not symmetrically situated or have equal access to socio-economic means. Without a strong feminist collective this enables male supremacist policies to be enacted without any opposition. Also, as a result of dependence on central government funding, these once grassroots feminist organisations which not only provided specialist support to female survivors of male violence, but also operated to campaign for real social change concerning male violence against women had to cease this function and instead become “State funded liberal agencies.....promoting self-help and healing.” (Mardorssian, 2002: 771).
Men’s demands for gender neutrality/formal gender equality are formulated on the male presumption that women and men should be equally treated according to standards developed from the life experiences of men, when in reality women and men are differently situated. (Kaye and Tolmie: 1998: 166) Men’s rights/interests are equated with defining their own interests as those of society as a whole. This is why men believe they are not a “group or gender” because their sex is the generic standard for humanity whereas women are “other”. Therefore, men’s interests and perspectives are perceived as “neutral” whereas women’s interests/rights are biased. (Johnson: 2005: 157)
The situation concerning pandemic male violence against women and girls is dire because men’s backlash against women has been ongoing for more than two decades. Not only has male violence against women been successfully depoliticised – individualism is now dominant wherein men claim that women and men are symmetrically situated and women magically have limitless choices and agency. Each act of male violence against women supposedly happens because the woman made a wrong choice or failed to enact her agency! This ensures the focus is on individual women rather than how society operates whereby male created institutions and structures remain in place and maintain male domination over women.
How do we challenge this cacophony of different voices all claiming that women have achieved equality with men, men are the real victims, violence is a human problem not a gendered political one, etc.? One of the central issues is the fact many feminist organisations have capitulated to men’s demands and men’s interests because they know men will punish them for challenging male power. But these feminist organizations have forgotten our herstory which tells us that an individual woman cannot successfully challenge male power but women en mass will change the world! Radical feminists have to keep on speaking the truth about male violence against women as men won’t willingly relinquish their institutional and individual power over women.
- Phillips D. and Henderson, D. 1999: A Discourse Analysis of male violence against women. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 69, 1:116-21.
- Strauss, M.A. 1990: Physical Violence In American Families: Risk Factors and Adaptations to Violence in 8,154 families, ed. M.A. Strauss and R.J. Gelles 75-91, New Brunswick, NJ, Transaction Publishers.
- Kaye, M. and Tolmie, J. 1998: The Rhetorical Devices of Fathers' Rights Groups, Melbourne University Law Review 22: 162-94.
- Johnson, A.G. The Gender Knot: Unravelling Our Patriarchal Legacy, Rev. ed. Philadelphia, Temple University Press.
Wednesday November 12, 2014
Death by sterilisation in India: Chhattisgarh is just one horror
Krittivas Mukherjee, Hindustan Times New Delhi
The death of 13 women at a state-run sterilisation camp in Chhattisgarh underlines flagrant violation of rules on implementing population stabilising campaigns as well as inadequate monitoring of such projects by health authorities across the country.
A woman (R), who underwent a botched sterilisation surgery at a government mass sterilisation 'camp', is moved to Chhattisgarh Institute of Medical Sciences hospital from a district hospital in Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh. (Reuters)
Although the coercive campaign spearheaded by Sanjay Gandhi in the 1970s has been replaced with a voluntary policy that promotes education of women and healthcare rather than demographic control, the Indian sterilisation programme remains deeply flawed, experts say.
For instance, the surgeries in Chhattisgarh were conducted in violation of a 2005 Supreme Court ruling that said a medical team could conduct only up to 30 surgeries a day with two separate laparoscopes. And, a doctor could do no more than 10 sterilisations a day.
But in Chhattisgarh, a lone surgeon performed 83 operations in less than 5 hours, showing that these operations were not done under standard protocols.
Official guidelines also say that all sterilisation camps must be organised in government facilities. The Chhattisgarh camp was organised in a private charitable hospital which had been closed for a year now. Media reports said rusty scalpels and tools were used and some of the medicines administered could have been spurious.
“The systemic failures which led to this incident need to be addressed,” said a joint statement of health workers and women’s groups said on Wednesday.
“The ‘camp method’ of sterilisation needs to be stopped with immediate effect as quality of care is seriously compromised in mass sterilisation programmes that are meeting earmarked targets.”
Sterilisation is the most popular form of birth control in India. Encouraged by cash incentives, about 4 million people a year undergo surgery. Almost all are women.
Experts say last week’s deadly incident is also a result of the pressure to meet the government’s sterilisation targets. In 2012, India committed to providing 48 million additional women and girls with access to contraceptives by 2020. However, in India about one in 5 women of reproductive age do not have access to modern method of contraception such as condoms and pills.
Chances are that India’s promises at the 2012 Family Planning Global Summit in London will reinforce the pressures of meeting ‘targets’, which has dangerous and long-term implications for the health of the people.
Many states such as Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Rajasthan are accused of setting unofficial sterilisation targets, violating the target-free population policy of 2000.
The overt emphasis placed on sterilising women is also out of step with best practices because male sterilisation such as vasectomy involves comparatively lesser health risks.
Wednesday November 12, 2014
Sterilisation horror reveals India's mothers risk lives for $11
By Bibhudatta Pradhan
Life-threatening procedure: Sixty-eight women who were sterilised have been hospitalised. (AP)
Delhi: Soni Jangde felt good when she returned home after getting sterilised in central India four days ago. She had 600 rupees ($11) in her hand and a belief that she was doing the right thing for her young family.
A few hours later, the 23-year-old mother of three got a headache, followed by abdominal pains and vomiting. She assumed it was a normal side effect until Chhattisgarh state health officials showed up in her village and rushed her to the hospital. Of the 82 women sterilised with her, 11 have died. Sixty-eight women have been hospitalised.
"We are completely afraid," Ms Jangde said from her hospital room, where her six-month-old baby and husband waited by her bed. "With this kind of treatment the government is playing with the lives of women and poor people like us."
Tears: Relatives mourn for women who died after undergoing sterilisation surgery. (AP)
The tragedy is one of the worst in recent memory from the one-day sterilisation drives India regularly holds to keep its 1.2 billion population from growing too fast. Married women are the most at risk. While more than a third of them are sterilised, only 1 per cent of men have had a vasectomy, a 2006 National Family Health Survey shows.
The United Nations forecasts that India will surpass China as the world's most populous country in about 30 years.
In 2007, India increased incentives for women to undergo sterilisation, and focused efforts on Chhattisgarh and other underdeveloped states.
India has the world's third-highest female sterilisation rate after the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, among more than 180 countries tracked by the UN.
Most of the women sterilised on November 8 were under 30. The sound of crying babies filled the hospital in Bilaspur district this week as anxious relatives stood by.
Ms Jangde and her husband take home the equivalent of $3 a day working on a farm. They have three children and can't afford to have any more. So when a village health worker told her about the sterilisation drive, she jumped at the opportunity.
On the afternoon of November 8, Ms Jangde arrived at the clinic in Bilaspur district. Five medical staff were present: the doctor, two nurses and two other staff members.
They took her blood pressure and then she gave urine and blood samples. The operation room was neat and tidy with two beds. The procedure went smoothly and was over in 10 minutes.
"I don't know what went wrong," she said.
Chhattisgarh's chief minister, Raman Singh, pinned the blame on the surgeon, R. K. Gupta. He had been suspended and was facing a criminal investigation.
Dr Gupta used infected instruments to sterilise 83 women in about six hours, said a local medical official who asked not to be named.
Dr Gupta also breached guidelines that limited surgeons from performing more than 30 sterilisations a day, the official said.
However, Dr Gupta denied any culpability, saying the women were well when they left the hospital.
"They went back to their villages and went to the village quacks who gave them antibiotics," he said.
The vomiting and abdominal pain, he said, "are all a reaction to these medicines".
Dr Gupta confirmed having performed 83 surgical sterilisations in six hours with two assistants.
He said he had performed 50,000 sterilisations, both in private and government hospitals.
Conducting the surgery safely was time-consuming, since it took 25 to 30 minutes to sterilise and prepare the laparoscope used in the operation, said Raman Kataria, a doctor with Jan Swasthya Sahyog, a non-governmental organisation that carries out sterilisations in the Bilaspur district.
Under those constraints, he said, it would be unsafe to try to conduct more than two, or possibly three, per hour.
"This incident is a reflection of a very bad, poor system, of a non-existent and non-accountable public health system, where such tragedies are waiting to happen," Dr Kataria said.
He said there were regularly reports of one or two deaths after health fairs, as the events are also called, but this was the worst incident he could remember.
India has a tumultuous history with sterilisation, dating to the 1970s, when a ruthless coercive campaign was carried out under Indira Gandhi.
Though the country recoiled at those measures, in recent years many state-level policymakers favoured a tough approach to population control and began introducing incentives – often financial – to discourage families from having more than two children.
Ms Jangde said she was sorry she ever listened to government messages promoting sterilisation.
"I'll never encourage my relatives to do family planning," she said. "If they do, I'll stand in the way."
Bloomberg, New York Times
UK ~ Thursday 13 November 2014
India mass sterilisation: Doctor arrested over botched operations after 15 die and 90 others are hospitalised
Police say Dr RK Gupta carried out surgeries in a 'filthy' disused hospital and cleaned scalpels between patients by 'dipping them in spirits'
By Heather Saul
A nurse tends to a woman, who underwent a sterilization surgery at a government mass sterilisation "camp", (Reuters)
A doctor who conducted the botched mass sterilisation of 130 women at government-run camps has been arrested after 15 died and 16 patients continue to fight for their lives in hospital.
Dr RK Gupta carried out tubectomy operations at two of the camps Indian state of Chhattisgarh, which offered free sterilisation surgery as part of a Government programme to curb the country’s population growth.
India’s population is among the fastest growing in the world and the country is expected to overtake China as the most populous by 2050.
The BBC reports Dr Gupta operated on 83 women within a five-hour period at one of the camps - a breach of government protocol which prohibits surgeons from performing more than 30 in a day.
The women were operated on in a room of an unused private hospital in a village called Pandari, according to the Reuters news agency.
Police said the operating theatre was filthy, dusty, hung with cobwebs and bloodied sheets were not changed between patients because of the high turnover.
The women were sent home after, but dozens became unwell hours later and were rushed to hospitals in Bilaspur. More than 90 remain in hospital.
Dr Gupta, who was arrested on Wednesday, denied reports that his equipment was rusty or dirty and said it was the government's duty to control the number of people that turned up at the state-run family-planning "camp".
Women, who underwent a sterilization surgery at a government mass sterilisation "camp", lie in hospital beds for treatment
The BBC said Dr Gupta had one assistant during surgery, but Dr Gupta told Reuters he had two.
He said he wore gloves and a gown during the operations and he took between two and five minutes on each operation, giving his assistants time to clean scalpels.
"They are dipped in spirit after an operation and then reused. If I feel it is not working well I change it. I do about 10 operations with the same knife. Towel clips are also reused after being dipped in spirit," he said.
Dr Gupta said health workers gave the women ciprofloxacin, a commonly prescribed antibiotic, and ibuprofen, a pain killer, after the operations.
He faces charges of causing death by negligence.
The government of Chhattisgarh, one of India's poorest states, banned five batches of drugs and a batch of surgical cotton wool on Wednesday pending further investigations.
The banned medicines include Indian-made brands of ciprofloxacin and ibuprofen and were used in Dr Gupta's sterilisation camp, a government statement said.
Additional reporting by Reuters
- India ~ Wednesday November 12, 2014
Chhattisgarh Sterilization Deaths: Better Financial Incentives, Promised Centre's Letter Just Weeks Ago
Reported by Um-E-Kulsoom Shariff, Edited by Deepshikha Ghosh
Women who underwent sterilization surgeries receive treatment at the CIMS hospital (Press Trust of India)
New Delhi: Three weeks before the deaths in Chhattisgarh after mass sterilization surgeries believed to be driven by targets, the central government had, in a letter, said that compensation would be doubled for men and women who agree to these surgeries.
NDTV has accessed the health ministry's letter on October 20 to 11 "high focus states" including Chhattisgarh, which begins by stressing on the "importance of performance in sterilization" and says that financial incentives will be increased in step with the rising cost of living.
The Centre said that men who go for sterilization surgery under the government's family planning programme will be given Rs. 2,000 instead of Rs. 1,100. For women, the amount would be hiked from Rs. 600 to Rs. 1,400.
Eleven women have died and many more are in hospitals after botched sterilization surgeries at a free state-run camp in Bilaspur on Saturday. Such camps are routinely held as part of India's attempts to control its billion-plus population.
An FIR or police complaint has been filed against the doctor, RK Gupta, who allegedly operated on 83 women in five hours that day with the help of one assistant at an abandoned hospital that has not treated any patients since April.
Two health officials suspended for fatal negligence have gone on record to say that they had targets to meet. "In April to March there are annual targets, this was done according to that," said RK Bhamge. Block Medical Officer Pramod Tiwari admitted, "The daily target of a team is 40 sterilizations, but the number of operations held on Saturday was double that figure."
The Centre's letter lists a chain of beneficiaries who are given incentives to join the sterilization drives. Besides the people who agree to the surgeries, the government pays the "motivator" Rs. 150 a person, the surgeon Rs. 75 and a nurse Rs. 15.
To many critics, including medical experts and politicians, the sterilization surgery exemplifies an inhuman programme that relies on targets, inducement and coercion.
Melbourne ~ Sunday November 9, 2014
Rich man, poor woman: the gender wealth gap widensBy Matt Wade/Senior writer
For years women have been banging up against the glass ceiling, but new figures reveal another problem – Australia's gender wealth gap has widened sharply over the past decade leaving single young women with a little over half the average assets of their male counterparts.
The disparity in average wealth between single men and single women across all age groups grew from $18,300 to $47,000 between 2002 and 2010, research has found.
Illustration: Matt Golding.
The findings mean that both the gender wealth gap and the gender pay gap have been rising in recent years. The earnings advantage for an average full-time male worker over an average full-time woman reached 18.2 per cent in August, the biggest difference since 1994. The growing gender disparity in both pay and wealth comes despite a long-term rise in female workforce participation and strong growth in the proportion of women with tertiary qualifications.
The Curtin University economists who conducted the study – Siobhan Austen, Rachel Ong, Sherry Bawa and Therese Jefferson said the main driver of the widening gender wealth gap was growth in the value of housing assets owned by single men. Also, the debt held by single men recorded more modest growth which helped boost their their net wealth.
"All our theories, and common sense, say that education is an important route to higher earnings and higher economic opportunity," said associate professor Siobhan Austen, a co-author of the wealth study. "And yet, despite young women now outnumbering young men in our universities quite substantially, we are not seeing a dramatic shift in the gender pay gap or the gender wealth gap. Indeed, they have trended upwards in the last decade."
By far the biggest disparity in wealth was between younger men and women – a typical single man aged under-35 had assets worth $120,200 in 2010 which was $56,700 – or 89 per cent – more than the average for women in the same age cohort. That's up from a wealth gap in that age group of $9,000, or 16 per cent, in 2002. The gender wealth gap among mid-age singles (35-55 years) jumped from 4 per cent to 28 per cent between 2002 and 2010 although the disparity among older single households over 55 narrowed from 16 per cent to 2.5 per cent.
Associate professor Austen said a growing gender wealth gap had major implications for the standard of living that men and women can expect in retirement.
"The data suggests we are going to see substantial gender wealth inequalities in old age," she said. "There are already a lot more women than men dependent on the age pension, for instance."
Helen Conway, director of the federal government's Workplace Gender Equality Agency said it was concerning to see increasing gender inequalities in both the gender pay gap and the distribution of wealth.
"Women are likely to live longer than men and be more reliant on government benefits in retirement, so the fact that this group is financially disadvantaged over the life-course has serious economic and social implications," she said.
To calculate the gender wealth gap the researchers compared the net wealth of single male households and single female households using the highly respected Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey. Widows and widowers were excluded, because their wealth was likely to reflect a couple's accumulated assets over time.
"The thing that really stood out in the data over that decade was that the primary housing assets of single male households increased much more rapidly than the housing assets of single women," associate professor Austen said.
More single female headed households have children than single male headed households and this might have constrained women's participation in the property market and the types of housing they can purchase.
"Women's housing investments may not have had as much potential for high price growth as men's," Austen said.
The superannuation balances of single women across the age groups grew more quickly than men's between 2002 and 2010 but this was not nearly enough to offset the substantial growth in single men's housing assets.
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