The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act, enacted following the death of Savita Halappanavar, was meant to bring to an end the agonising about Ireland’s abortion regime and the long failure to legislate for the existing constitutional provision. The news that a vulnerable and suicidal young rape victim was denied an abortion in a timely way and ended up having a Caesarean section to deliver her baby prematurely shows that it has signally failed to do so.
The facts of the case, as we know them, are horrific. The young woman came to Ireland following a traumatic rape in her own country, resulting in pregnancy. She immediately told certain statutory authorities (though apparently not the HSE) she wanted an abortion. She was not directed to the appropriate medical services. Her circumstances were such that she could not travel abroad for an abortion, so she was forced to continue with the pregnancy against her will, as evidenced by the fact that she went on hunger and thirst strike. When she eventually obtained medical help she was found by the panel of experts to be suicidal, but they considered it was too late for an abortion and medical intervention, also against her will, became necessary to save her life and that of the child.
The Act is silent on the gestational stage at which an abortion may take place to save the life of the mother. It is also unclear about who is obliged to pass on to the appropriate medical authorities the clearly-expressed wish of a suicidal woman to have an abortion, particularly if she is vulnerable and has communication difficulties, as this woman had due to not being able to speak English. Its restrictions clearly bear most heavily on the most vulnerable.
But even if these matters are clarified by further legislation, the Act falls short of a growing consensus that the abortion regime defined by the Eighth Amendment and the subsequent Supreme Court suicide ruling does not meet the needs of women in crisis pregnancies. The Master of the Rotunda Hospital, Dr Sam Coulter-Smith, along with a number of politicians, has urged a further referendum to remove confusion on the issue in the context of rape and fatal foetal abnormalities.
The latest case demonstrates pregnancy as a result of rape does indeed lead some victims to consider suicide. Many more rape victims will wish to terminate the pregnancy, though they may not threaten suicide or embark on suicidal behaviour, and should not have to. A few courageous women have made the case for the right to have their pregnancies terminated where there was no chance of the foetus surviving outside the womb. The case for including among the referendums planned for next year one to repeal the Eighth Amendment in order to allow for abortion in the case of rape and foetal abnormality is now compelling. ~~~~~~~~~~~ Tuesday August 19, 2014 Editorial:
State needs to review the 2013 Abortion Act
Last year's abortion legislation was introduced in the wake of the death of Savita Halappanavar
THE full facts of the case of a young asylum seeker refused an abortion are yet to emerge. But it is already apparent that the substantive and procedural rights afforded to women under the new Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act may not be fully accessible.
The case is the first example of suicide being cited as a grounds for the termination of a pregnancy under the new abortion laws whose own birth was dominated by disputes over the inclusion of the suicide clause to bring Ireland's law into line with the 1992 X Case.
If the teenage rape victim requested a termination as far back as April, it begs questions as to why she was not referred to a GP or relevant health professional to ascertain if she was suitable for assessment under the act.
It is vital that we fill the gaps in the missing 12 weeks between the initial discovery of her pregnancy and her formal request - at some 22 weeks' gestation - for a termination on suicide grounds.
The Health Services Executive (HSE) is responsible for the provision of medical services for all asylum seekers, including unaccompanied and "aged out" minors who have reached the age of majority but are deemed to be vulnerable.
The agency has commenced an inquiry into the young woman's case.
But the inquiry should not look at the facts from a medical perspective alone. The woman had her baby delivered at 25 weeks by caesarean section after she was refused a termination by an expert panel and went on hunger strike.
The Department of Justice has overall responsibility for the operation of our asylum system, including the much-maligned system of direct provision.
That department's role and operations must also be scrutinised as part of any credible review, as the State could be subject to litigation over any perceived delays and failure to implement its own laws.
The Government should therefore move to set up an independent, multi-departmental inquiry and review the act.
The plight of the girl serves as an indictment not just of the efficacy of the 2013 Act but also of the system of direct provision which tries but cannot meet the complex health - including mental health - needs of asylum seekers.
Time to bring student 'digs' back in vogue
For many, the idea of rooming with a family in student “digs” will conjure up visions of penny-pinching landlord Rigsby and his unrequited pursuit of Ms Jones in the classic comedy Rising Damp, or of frayed carpets and overbearing landladies and landlords.
There’s no reason that should be the case. If householders and students respect each others’ boundaries, they have a huge amount to offer one another.
The same factors driving homelessness and a shortage of family homes mean that in Dublin in particular the shortage of student accommodation is particularly acute this year.
At the same time, a generation of homeowners is struggling with big mortgages taken out during the boom – some of whom at least have spare rooms that could be used to help service those loans. Uniquely, up to €10,000 a year can be earned tax free from renting out a room. For first-year students in particular, “digs” can provide affordable housing and help ease the transition to living away from home. It’s an idea whose time has come back.
Once again, vulnerable young women pay the price for political cowardice
A candlelight vigil to mark the first anniversary of the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar at University Hospital Galway last year
A young woman, a teenager for argument's sake, is violently raped.
The trauma of that sexual violence and other complex factors in her life means that she has suicidal intent and does not want to proceed with the pregnancy. A sole psychiatrist forms the view that her life is at risk from suicide and believes that the ending of the pregnancy is the only way to save her life.
Had this hypothetical girl gone to the High Court before January, she would - under the 1992 X case - have been allowed a termination under Irish law.
This was the type of tragic scenario that last year's Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act was designed to accommodate, to prevent women from throwing themselves at the mercy of the courts where they had met the test set out in X.
And yet, in the first known test of our new abortion laws, a young rape victim was refused a termination despite the fact that an expert panel who assessed her not just determined - but certified - that there was a risk to her life from suicide.
However, her request was refused as it was deemed that early delivery by caesarean section was the best option in the circumstances.
The young woman, who could not travel overseas for a termination because of her legal status, went on hunger strike on foot of her belief that her request for an abortion was refused.
This prompted the Health Service Executive (HSE) to seek a court order allowing it to forcibly hydrate her. The order was granted but not relied upon because the young woman gave birth to her baby after it was delivered prematurely by caesarean section - at between 24 and 26 weeks gestation.
The available facts surrounding this case, hampered in part by reporting restrictions, are still too sparse to warrant full interrogation.
But they are laid sufficiently bare to expose the endemic weaknesses at the heart of the 2013 law.
It was a 30-year long, Sisyphean task to get the law, whose passage was accelerated by the shocking 2012 death of Indian dentist Savita Halappanavar, across the line.
The 2013 abortion act was a triumph for political cowardice and legislative minimalism. Afraid to rock the boat any further, politicians opted for the least possible reform. They ignored calls to consider the plight of expectant women with fatal foetal abnormalities whose pregnancies are not viable.
They expressly failed to provide for victims of rape and incest. They could not countenance confronting, in law, complex issues of viability thresholds, term limits and late term abortions, as other countries have done. They did not do so in part because the practical effect of the X case is that there are no upper time limits where a termination is required to save a woman's life, that risk including suicide.
Regardless of where you stand on the perennially divisive issue of abortion, clarity - real legislative clarity - is required for all. Having refused to deal with issues such as viability in legislation, the Government kicked the issue to touch in its draft guidelines which contemplate "early delivery" but place such deliveries outside the scope of the act. The guidelines state - in a footnote, of all places - that if the unborn has reached viability and the best course of action is deemed to be an early induction or caesarean section, this medical procedure would not fall under the act.
The rationale for taking early deliveries outside the act is that they are not medical procedures during which, or as a result of which, an unborn human life is ended.
Has this footnote brought in the notion of a viability threshold through the back door, just as the 1983 right-to-life referendum was intended to block abortion through the back door by judicial activism?
If there is an alternative to abortion through early delivery, should this have been specified in the act rather than buried deep in the small print of the guidelines?
There are other complex issues raised not just by this case but which may not have been sufficiently addressed in the law.
On the issue of consent, the guidelines state that, as per current medical practice, "it will always be a matter for the patient to decide if she wishes to proceed with a medical procedure under this act".
What if she is refused? What if she cannot proceed with her desired medical procedure? What is the status of her consent, competencies, autonomy and bodily integrity if she opts to go on hunger strike or end her life?
How real and valid is her consent if she "agrees" to an early delivery when experiencing great distress? How effective is our limited law if vulnerable women cannot access it in a timely manner?
When the 2013 act was passed, politicians breathed a sigh of relief that they had done what the Supreme Court has excoriated them since 1992 for failing to do: legislate.
But an ambiguous, ineffective law is no law at all.
Once again, it is vulnerable young women who do not have the safety valve of travel or other means, who are paying the price for our political cowardice. And with international pressure still bearing down on Ireland, this is one socio-political nightmare that shows no sign of ending. ~~~~~~~~~~~ Wednesday 20 August 2014
Abortion law offers escape to rich and a dead end to poor
By Colette Browne
(Picture posed.Thinkstock Images)
Middle-aged and elderly voters are responsible for Ireland's restrictive abortion law - it's time a new generation had a say.
Since Ireland first inserted the 1983 amendment into the Constitution, equating a woman's right to life with that of a foetus, voters have had a number of opportunities to make the law more restrictive. We have never had an opportunity to liberalise it.
The choice, if you could call it that, has only ever veered from endorsing an absolute abortion ban to allowing it in very limited circumstances to save a woman's life.
Consequently, nobody who can actually bear children in Ireland today - nobody under the age of 49 - has had any real say over our draconian abortion regime.
Instead, women's reproductive choices have been controlled, for more than 30 years, by Catholic dogma reincarnated as law.
This has remained the case despite the fact that Ireland in the 21st Century bears no resemblance to the theocratic state that first introduced an abortion ban all those years ago - a state in which divorce was illegal and homosexual acts were outlawed.
Still, while those religious artefacts in the Constitution were gradually excised over time, our abortion law has remained immutable, a perfectly preserved relic. It's time for that to change.
The law, as it's currently constituted, is not equitable and it's not fair.
It offers an escape route to the rich and a dead end to the poor.
Its defenders say that the 8th Amendment stopped the introduction of abortion on demand into Ireland.
What they refuse to recognise is that we have de facto abortion on demand - for everyone who can afford it.
The others, without the money or the capacity to travel, are served up as sacrificial victims to the State's sanctimonious moralising.
Our perverse obsession with women's wombs is such that the law seems incapable of treating even a suicidal teenage rape victim with a modicum of empathy.
The details of the case of the young asylum seeker, suicidal at the thought of giving birth to her rapist's baby, which came to light this week are distressing.
It is an indictment of a heartless law whose only function is the criminalisation and stigmatisation of vulnerable women by a pious State too craven to face up to its own responsibilities to 50pc of its citizens.
But your reaction should not just be one of pity, you should be angry too - angry that, 22 years after the X Case, it can happen again.
Health Minister Leo Varadkar has cautioned against using the case as "a political cause".
But how can it be anything other than political when the State effectively asserts ownership rights over women's bodies once they become pregnant?
How could it be anything other than political when the only way to ensure that a similar tragedy is not repeated is to change the law and accept that the cost of maintaining the fiction of an abortion-free Ireland is too high?
The fact is that this woman, who suffered so terribly after she fled to this country seeking asylum, could yet be deported.
And, if she had opted to have the child willingly, instead of being coerced into a C-Section, the likelihood is that the child would be deported with her.
And therein lies the problem - Ireland, for all of its pro-life rhetoric and constitutional protection for the unborn, doesn't care much what happens to children once they are born.
The State's illusory veneer of moral rectitude on this issue has crumbled in dust after 30 years.
If we really cared about women, we would demand that the law treated them with equanimity and empathy.
It's time that those whose bodies the State seeks to police finally had a say in their treatment. We need a referendum. ~~~~~~~~~~~ Wednesday 20 August 2014
Psychiatrist says abortion law can be improved by amendment
HSE to publish terms of reference for review into care of woman who sought termination
The terms of reference for the report into the treatment of the woman who sought an abortion are to be published today.
Consultant psychiatrist and former TD Dr Moosajee Bhamjee has warned that another controversial abortion case could happen at any time and has called on the Government to amend the existing legislation.
He said a fresh referendum on abortion was not a good idea. Dr Bhamjee works in private practice in Ennis and Galway having retired from the HSE in 2011.
He served one term as a Labour deputy for Clare in the 1990s.
“This could happen again next month, next week,” he said, referring to the case of the young woman who was refused an abortion and later had her pregnancy delivered by Caesarian section.
He said the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act could be improved through amendments.
“I think the legislation could be amended without going to a referendum. Once we go to a referendum you get so many multiple views that you end up with a mess,” he said.
“The Government should look at amending the legislation rather than looking at going to a referendum. It causes too much controversy and conflict within society.”
Earlier Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan said he did not believe there was an appetite for a further referendum to remove the 8th amendment to the Constitution in relation to abortion.
Concerns for the psychological welfare of the young woman at the centre of the latest abortion controversy were brought to the HSE at the end of May, two months earlier than has been reported, it is understood.
The young woman, who was 16 weeks pregnant at the time, attempted to take her own life at that point, she has said.
Her pregnancy was delivered by Caesarean section earlier this month, at 25 weeks gestation. She was suicidal and says she had been refused a termination under the new abortion legislation.
Speaking today, the Minister said he agreed with Minister for Health Leo Varadkar’s direction to the HSE to seek a full report “to assemble all of the facts” in relation to the particular case.
He said he understood the HSE would have a report “sometime in September”.
The terms of reference for the review are expected to be published today.
“I believe time to be of the essence here. It’s absolutely essential that we have this report on the fact as quickly as possible. I see no reason why we can’t have this in a couple of weeks and I do believe it’s essential that the cabinet is fully briefed by Minister [for Health Leo] Varadkar in September.”
Mr Flanagan said there seemed to be “a conflict as to the engagement of members of the medical profession with the level of treatment” and with the timelines in the case.
“I believe before we do anything it’s important that the facts be assembled and the facts be disclosed.”
Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke programme, Mr Flanagan was asked about the possibility that the report might suggest that the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act should be revisited in some way.
“Well, there is a suggestion that the Act isn’t working. However, I think before we can be conclusive on that or before we can form an opinion on that, we need to be apprised fully of the facts and the circumstances,” he said.
“ . . . I think it’s important that the review mechanism under the Act be allowed take place if the current case means bringing that forward a few months then so be it.”
On the question of a referendum to remove the 8th amendment provision on abortion, he said: “There doesn’t appear to be an appetite for a further referendum. However, it’s important that the Government does address the issue in the context of the facts of this particularly harrowing case, so early into the operation of the legislation.”
He was “not satisfied” that deleting the provision was the way forward “because the consequences of that will have to be weighed up in a way that perhaps they haven’t been to date”.
“So I’m not going down the referendum road. What I am anxious to do is that we see the operation of this Act, which is only a year in operation -in fact it’s much less than a year in operation - that we have a look at the workings of the Act in the context of what has happened in recent months which is a matter of some concern, I might add.”
The young woman in the case says she was pregnant as a result of rape before she came to the country and first asked for an abortion when she was eight weeks and four days pregnant, at the beginning of April. She was referred to the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) for counselling.
When told that the cost of travelling for an abortion could be as high as €1,500 at an IFPA counselling session in late May, she said she would rather die than continue with the pregnancy. The Irish Times understands she was then referred to a HSE staff member.
The revelation raises new questions about the HSE’s role in her care and why she was not referred at this stage to a GP, who could then refer her on to a psychiatrist under the terms of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act. The Act did not come into play in her case until July, when she attended a GP and was then referred to a psychiatrist.
A panel of two psychiatrists and one obstetrician was convened and it was agreed that she was suicidal and that the pregnancy should be ended. The care she received is now to be reviewed by the HSE.
The care she received from the time she found out she was pregnant in early April until the time she was delivered this month will be investigated.
Both the IFPA and the Department of Justice say they will co-operate fully with the investigation.
The HSE, when asked yesterday about the case being brought to its attention in May, reiterated that its director general had requested a report be completed for him that seeks to establish the full facts surrounding the case. “We will not be in a position to comment until these facts are established,” a spokeswoman said
The IFPA will not comment on the young woman’s case, citing client confidentiality. However, its chief executive, Niall Behan, said the association always did “all we possibly can” to assist women in crisis pregnancy. ~~~~~~~~~~~ Tuesday 19 August 2014
160,000 reasons to take action on abortion
‘Constitu tional provisions on abortion are just the detritus of the ecstatic picnic of theocracy’s final fling’
“There will be referendums next year, and one of them should be to remove abortion from the Constitution and put it where it should be – into the ordinary Irish reality where most of us live.”
By Fintan O'Toole
If you’re reading this on a train or a bus, have a look around you. There is every chance that you will see a woman who has had an abortion. It might be that sharply dressed middle-aged lady. It might be the sweet granny taking her grandkids to the zoo. It might be the student going over her lecture notes.
At least 160,000 Irish women have had abortions abroad since 1980. That’s close to one in 10 of the female population aged between 14 and 64. These women are our mothers, sisters, daughters, friends, neighbours. Yet abortion is part of official discourse only when a new atrocity breaks the surface of a deep silence.
It takes some grotesque tormenting of a woman – such as the latest case in which a suicidal woman was forced by court order to continue a pregnancy that resulted from rape – for an everyday reality to be acknowledged.
That reality is plain: Irish women have abortions and Irish people are OK with it. They agree that women should be free to have abortions in England under a very wide set of criteria. In 1992, when there was a referendum on the right to travel outside the State to have an abortion, Youth Defence spelt out very clearly what this meant from an anti-abortion perspective: “The word ‘travel’ is being used by cowardly politicians and others as a cover-up for the violent and vicious killing of defenceless Irish babies by English doctors.” If you believe that abortion is murder, this was the truth. The Irish people voted for it nonetheless, by 62 per cent to 38 per cent. This made it abundantly clear that, for all the rhetoric and all the silences, most Irish people, even then, did not actually believe in banning abortion.
Regime does not reflect public opinion Even in relation to abortions within Ireland, it is clear the current, punitively restrictive regime does not reflect public opinion. In an Irish Times poll in June 2013 81 per cent said abortion should be allowed in cases of rape or abuse, with just 10 per cent saying it should not. Asked whether abortion should be permitted if the foetus is not capable of surviving outside the womb, 83 per cent said it should, with 8 per cent saying it should not.
And yet, we somehow end up imposing in the most cruel way the views of a small rump of the population on abused and suicidal women. There’s a lot of talk about the tyranny of majorities but this is a clear case of the tyranny of a small minority. For all the lazy talk of abortion as a “divisive” issue, the truth is that the vast bulk of public opinion is on one side of the divide – the side that wants the law to allow women in awful circumstances to make their own choices.
The real division, in fact, is between most Irish people on the one side and the political and legal regime on the other. It exists because, when it comes to abortion, we are almost literally living in the past.
This whole mess goes back to a very specific moment in Irish history – the last stand of theocratic Catholicism. For a short period in the late 1970s and early 1980s, it seemed possible to the Catholic hierarchy and to militant lay Catholics that the old regime of church control of legislation on family, sexuality and reproduction could be preserved.
This was not primarily about abortion – contraception, divorce and homosexuality were much more pertinent questions at the time. But abortion was seen, correctly, as what the Christian right in the US would call a “wedge issue” – a cultural and emotional redoubt behind which conservatives could rally.
This attempted counter-revolution is the one and only reason why abortion is in the Constitution. And it wasn’t even a successful counter-revolution. It had some temporary success in galvanising conservative Ireland for a last stand. But it did absolutely nothing to stop abortions – there were 3,650 in 1982 before the anti-abortion amendment to the Constitution and 3,946 in 1984 after it.
And it failed in its larger goals of stopping reforms on contraception, homosexuality and (eventually) divorce. The constitutional provisions on abortion are just the tattered vestiges of an old disappointment, the beer cans and torn ponchos left on the sodden field the day after a festival of self-righteousness, the detritus of the ecstatic picnic of theocracy’s final fling.
Torturing women It is one thing to torture women for a coherent principle, backed up by a deep moral consensus. (Not a good thing, of course, but at least a serious thing.) But it is outrageous to break the will of already vulnerable women on the rack of a long-discarded ideology.
There’s something sick in a system where the horrific reality of forced pregnancy matters less than the preservation of what amount to constitutional catchphrases with as much relevance to contemporary Ireland as Maoist slogans have in today’s China.
This tyranny of an old failure has to stop. There will be referendums next year, and one of them should be to remove abortion from the Constitution and put it where it should be – into the ordinary Irish reality where most of us live.
Baby Gammy has shown the need for debate on surrogacy
As the fallout from baby Gammy continues and Thailand moves to make commercial surrogacy illegal, calls are intensifying for Australia to legalise paid surrogacy with a carefully designed system as columnist Julie Szego proposed on these pages last week.
As a critic of the IVF industry for three decades, my solution is very different. Rather than regulating a system that commodifies the resulting child and invariably uses women as "containers" for carrying and birthing a baby they are taught to say is not theirs, we need to focus on the demand for surrogacy and try to reduce it.
How is it that there are 100 or more couples who are now in understandable despair because they dont know whats happening to the Thai women carrying "their" babies, or to their frozen embryos in clinics that have been closed down? Who is facilitating couples - gay and straight - who are intent on their own genetic child and have the money to pay going baby shopping overseas?
We need to focus on those who fuel the demand for surrogacy - like the group Surrogacy Australia, which held its consumer-oriented conference for prospective IPs (intended parents), titled Families through Surrogacy, in Melbourne at the end of May 2014. This was a buyers market with beaming surrogates and egg donors from Australia and overseas, and a presence of local and international IVF clinics from Thailand, India and Mexico.
And so we sat for two days: about 200 people, many of them potential customers. We listened to expert after expert extolling the happiness but also the pitfalls facing intended parents they were clearly the focus of the conference if they start the surrogacy journey on their own. Much better to use the services of Surrogacy Australia with their tried and tested connections to IVF clinics in- and outside Australia, including the Thai clinic Talent IVF. And their lawyers: no fewer than six Australian law firms and migration agents were advertising their services in a trade fair along the walls of the venue, with plenty of nice pens.
Surrogacy Australia is closely aligned with Fertility Connections, a closed online forum for members (fertilityconnectionsaustralia.com/au). Here intended parents can look for surrogates, egg donors (and vice versa). Featuring a beautiful Tree of Life as their logo, spokeswoman Rachel Kunde (who is also a spokesperson for Surrogacy Australia) describes herself as a Queensland surrogate and "4 times egg donor".
All of this is presented to us as the "natural" next step for couples who went unsuccessfully through IVF multiple times. (Stopping altogether is not discussed.) Many are now also in need of an egg donor as are the gay couples who play a prominent role as proud Gay Dads at the conference discussing "processes, costs and success rates" of their surrogacy journeys in India, Thailand or the US.
The right to a child is not questioned, the fact that the birth mother might regret giving away her child for the rest of her life, or decide to keep the baby, is only discussed in the context of what precautions intended parents need to take so that this does not happen. It is accepted without discussion that a "gestational surrogate" - the term used for a woman who becomes pregnant with an implanted embryo that does not contain her own genes will not have a relationship with the developing baby as it is "not her child". An absurd notion for any woman who has ever been pregnant.
A pregnant 22-year-old Queensland woman at the conference tells us her story of being a three-time egg donor. One hormonal stimulation went horribly wrong and she ended up in hospital with life-threatening ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome. But the "reward" of donating is so important to her that she does it another three times! Now she is a surrogate but in the "traditional way", via sperm insemination. She could not face the fertility hormone injections again. This woman, who has now a fiance, will give her first child away but she talks about it with obvious pride. The audience has gone quiet and it is difficult to guess what they think.
What have we done as a society that beautiful young women risk their lives and health and give their babies away? That people with money can commission a custom-made baby from an Indian woman their child will never know? Have we forgotten the many heartbreaking stories from adoption? Dont we know about donor children in desperate need of finding their sperm donor? Why are we repeating these mistakes, and why are we not even talking about it? We need to reduce the demand for surrogacy. Surrogacy is a heartless, exploitative, capitalist enterprise. There is no right to a child; children are not commodities, and surrogates are not just "suitcases" or "angels" (depending on your point of view). Infertility can be very sad but we need to also understand that many women are pushed into surrogacy because of IVF failures (more income for IVF clinics). There are so many children around who deserve love and attention - why insist on your own genes and commodify a woman in the process (even if she says it’s her "choice" or she needs the money)?
By Staff Reporter Read also by Tony Stewart and V. Rukmini RaoHERE
Adivasi activists staging ‘Jala Deeksha’ in the Godavari at Bhadrachalam on Saturday. (Special Arrangement)
Register their protest against the Polavaram project
Activists of various Adivasi organisations launched a 24-hour ‘Jala Deeksha’ in the Godavari at Bhadrachalam on Saturday to register their protest against the Polavaram project and alleged violation of the rights of Adivasis.
Members owing allegiance to the Adivasi Vidyarthi Sankshema Parishad (AVSP), Adivasi Konda Reddi Sangham, Nayakpod Seva Sangham and other organisations embarked on the ‘Jala Deeksha’, which coincides with World Adivasi Day.
Earlier, the protesters hoisted a green flag at Ambedkar Centre in the temple town to mark World Adivasi Day. They gathered on the bridge over the Godavari and shouted slogans – ‘Stop Polavaram – Save Adivasis’.
Speaking on the occasion, AVSP coordinator Madivi Nehru alleged that the Polavaram project would spell disaster for lakhs of Adivasis, threatening their survival.
“The Centre’s decision to go ahead with the construction of the project amounts to the blatant violation of the rights of Adivasis enshrined in the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution,” he charged.
We have embarked on the ‘Jala Deeksha’ to convey our strong protest against the project, avert the impending danger of ‘Jala Samadhi’ (watery grave) and uphold the rights of Adivasis, he said.
Later, the protesters, including Mr. Nehru, Nayakpod Sangham leader Balakrishna and Konda Reddi Sangham founder M. Ramesh, launched the ‘Jala Deeksha’. Some protesters used a country boat to reach the spot.
Meanwhile, the activists of the CPI (ML-ND) and its frontal wings took out rallies at several places in the Agency in protest against the transfer of seven tribal sub-plan mandals of the district to residuary Andhra Pradesh for the construction of the Polavaram project. ~~~~~~~~ Saturday July 12, 2014
Telangana shuts down over Polavaram Bill
Hyderabad: Telangana is facing a day-long bandh today called in protest against the passage in Lok Sabha of a Bill to transfer some villages of the newly-created state to Andhra Pradesh to aid the construction of the Polavaram project.
The bandh, called by Left parties and the Telangana Joint Action Committee (which spearheaded separate statehood movement), began on a peaceful note and there was no report of any untoward incidents anywhere in the state, police said.
"Situation in the state is peaceful. We expect it to remain peaceful. No untoward incident has been reported," Inspector General (North Zone), Ravi Gupta, told PTI.
Most educational institutions in capital Hyderabad and other important cities of the state remained closed. According to early reports, government bus services in most parts of Telangana were non-operational.
Criticising the passage of Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation (Amendment) Bill in Lok Sabha yesterday, CPI(M) Telangana Secretary Thamineni Veerabhadram alleged that interests of big investors was being served in the name of protecting farmers of Andhra Pradesh.
They said Bill paves the way for transfer of some villages of Khammam district of Telangana to Andhra Pradesh.
The Bill, which replaces an earlier ordinance, was passed amidst protests by TRS, BJD and other parties. TRS, the ruling party in Telangana, is vehemently opposed to the transfer of villages.
CPI(M) and other Left parties, too, are opposed to the multi-purpose project, saying it would lead to submergence of tribal habitations.
Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao has strongly criticised the BJP-led NDA government over the legislation, calling it "undemocratic and unethical".
The long-pending irrigation-cum-hydel power generation project, spread over several districts and envisaged more than three decades back, has been given national status, meaning it will have the Centre's financial backing and facilitation.
The multi-crore project, which also seeks to provide water for drinking and industrial purposes, is to come up in Polavaram mandal of Andhra Pradesh's West Godavari district ~~~~~~~~~~~ Tuesday July 15 2014
Parliament passes bill on Polavaram project
By B. Muralidhar Reddy File photo shows tribals from Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Odisha staging “Jala deeksha” at Godavari-Sabari river Sangamam in Kunavaram, Khammam District, against the Polavaram project. (G.N.RAO).
New Delhi: Parliament on Monday passed a bill to facilitate transfer of 205 villages spread across seven mandals in the newly formed State of Telangana to the residual state of Andhra Pradesh for the multi-purpose Polavaram irrigation project.
The bill, approved by Lok Sabha last week, was opposed by members of the House from Telangana and the States of Odisha and Chattisgarh on the plea that it would cause unwarranted displacement of 52 thousand scheduled caste families from the three States.
Within days after taking reigns of office the Narendra Modi had recommend promulgation of an ordinance to ensure transfer of villages before the creation of the states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh on June 2.
The measure was necessitated as the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, as approved by Parliament during the Manmohan Singh regime, did not include the provision on transfer of the villages as consensus on the subject emerged after the bill was crafted.
Though the ordinance and the consequent bill was on the basis of a policy decision by the UPA government, in both houses of Parliament Congress members from Telangana voiced their opposition.
In his reply to the debate in the upper house the Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh assured that the centre would take all possible steps for rehabilitation and resettlement of the affected people.
In the course of the debate Congress member and former Union Minister Jairam Ramesh, who was one of the key ministers who oversaw creation of Telangana, got into heated exchanges from the members of his own party from the state of Telangana.
Countering the argument of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and others opposed to the Ordinance, the Home Minister said that government has not violated any constitutional norm while bringing the bill.
The TRS members had moved a statutory resolution rejecting the ordinance on the ground that there was no justification for the move since Parliament was slated to meet in a few days before promulgation of the Ordinance.
The Minister explained that immediate action was necessary to revise the territories of the two successor States before the appointed day of June 2 on which day the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014 came into force.
Mr. Ramesh in his speech said, "This is an important commitment made by the erstwhile UPA government which has been continued by the present government. The continuity in policy reflects democratic politics.
"I have no hesitation in saying that the amendment bill moved by the present government is word by word same as decided on March 1st. Contours of the draft made by UPA-II have been included in the bill".
Mr. Ramesh was repeatedly interrupted by his party colleagues V Hanumantha Rao and Ananda Bhaskar Rapolu as also TRS member K Keshava Rao.
"I do not need sermons from my colleagues from Telangana. This decision was taken in difficult circumstances. Please remember, the issue of Hyderabad was a litmus test for Telangana. For Andhra Pradesh, this project is an emotional issue", he maintained.
He said that the project is "not an easy project" to implement as it involves massive resettlement. “It is on par with Sardar Sarovar Dam (in Gujarat) and Indira Sagar project in Madhya Pradesh. It brings major benefits, it also involves substantial resettlement."
Kalpataru Das (BJD) opposed the bill saying, "We are not opposed to Polavaram project. We are opposing the way it is pushed." He suggested that the government should call a meeting of chief ministers of Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Seemandhra and Telangana to find a solution.
Speaking in favour of the bill the bill, C M Ramesh (TDP) attacked TRS for taking "political mileage" by opposing the bill on Polavaram project. "We are not making politics, they are. All that we want is that there should not be any hurdle for the project."
Opposing the Bill Renuka Chowdhury (Cong) demanded an alternative solution as the project will displace lakhs of tribals and inundate several taluks.
"This Bill should not be passed at the cost of tribals of Telangana and the Khamman district. The entire Bhadrachalam town and the temple of Lord Ram will also be submerged," she said.
D Raja (CPI) suggested that the new Land Acquisition Act should be applied for resettlement and rehabilitation of the affected people.
By PTI SFI activists protesting against Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation (Amendment) Bill which passed in the Lok Sabha, in Khammam on Friday. Photo: G.N. Rao
The bandh, called by Left parties and the Telangana Joint Action Committee began on a peaceful note on Saturday
Telangana is facing a day-long bandh on Saturday called in protest against the passage in Lok Sabha of a Bill to transfer some villages of the newly-created state to Andhra Pradesh to aid the construction of the Polavaram project.
The bandh, called by Left parties and the Telangana Joint Action Committee (which spearheaded separate statehood movement), began on a peaceful note and there was no report of any untoward incidents anywhere in the state, police said.
“Situation in the state is peaceful. We expect it to remain peaceful. No untoward incident has been reported,” Inspector General (North Zone), Ravi Gupta, said.
Most educational institutions in capital Hyderabad and other important cities of the state remained closed. According to early reports, government bus services in most parts of Telangana were non-operational.
Criticising the passage of Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation (Amendment) Bill in Lok Sabha on Friday, CPI(M) Telangana Secretary Thamineni Veerabhadram alleged that interests of big investors was being served in the name of protecting farmers of Andhra Pradesh.
The said Bill paves the way for transfer of some villages of Khammam district of Telangana to Andhra Pradesh.
The Bill, which replaces an earlier ordinance, was passed amidst protests by TRS, BJD and other parties. TRS, the ruling party in Telangana, is vehemently opposed to the transfer of villages.
CPI (M) and other Left parties, too, are opposed to the multi-purpose project, saying it would lead to submergence of tribal habitations.
Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao has strongly criticised the BJP-led NDA government over the legislation, calling it “undemocratic and unethical”.
The long-pending irrigation-cum-hydel power generation project, spread over several districts and envisaged more than three decades back, has been given national status, meaning it will have the Centre’s financial backing and facilitation.
The multi-crore project, which also seeks to provide water for drinking and industrial purposes, is to come up in Polavaram mandal of Andhra Pradesh’s West Godavari district.
Favours smaller check dams in catchment areas as an alternative model
Development issues: Social activist Medha Patkar and Telangana JAC convenor Prof. Kodandaram greet each other at a workshop in Hyderabad on Saturday (Mohd. Yousuf)
HYDERABAD: Articulating an alternative development model to ensure equity and justice to the marginalised sections in Telangana, noted social activist Medha Patkar on Saturday urged the Planning Commission to immediately halt the controversial Polavaram project in view of the huge “environmental and social costs” involved in it.
Taking part in a workshop on ‘Developmental Perspective for a Sustainable Telangana: A Paradigm for an Ecologically sustainable Future' here, Ms. Patkar, rooting for the over two lakh tribals who would be displaced by the project, said “the over Rs. 13,000 crore project is likely to suffer time and cost overruns.”
“The cost benefit analysis made by the State government is totally flawed,” claimed Ms. Patkar, who had held a dialogue earlier with Major Irrigation Minister P. Lakshmaiah on the pros and cons of taking up the project which would submerge 276 villages in Andhra Pradesh and also neighbouring Chattisgarh and Orissa.
Describing large dams as “ecological disasters”, she suggested construction of smaller check dams in the catchment areas. Though over Rs. 90,000 crore was spent on major irrigation projects across the country in the last 15 years, significant extent of land had not been brought under irrigation said Ms. Patkar, who had spearheaded the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA).
The present development model was loaded in favour of domestic and foreign corporates, she lamented and advocated democratic decentralised planning to usher in development at the grassroots level.
Sex Ratios and Gender Biased Sex Selection: History, Debates & Future Directions
by Mary E. John
The study maps existing evidence on gender biased sex selection in the Indian context, weaving in significant social debates and policy developments that have influenced perceptions, and pathways to action. It offers practical suggestions to advance the path of critical inquiry by focusing on different domains such as family and household, education, labour and employment, and on institutions that directly or indirectly aid or combat the practice of sex selection.
Scroll down for further related media Reports New Delhi – The sharply declining child sex ratio in India has reached emergency proportions and urgent action must be taken to alleviate this crisis. The study ‘Sex Ratios and Gender Biased Sex Selection: History, Debates and Future Directions,’ undertaken by Dr. Mary John on behalf of UN Women and with support from UNFPA, helps to understand gender-biased sex selection more holistically, and aids in the identification of the important way forward for organisations and people working on the problem.
“Gender-biased sex selection is first and foremost a reflection of how little our society values girls and women. The sharply declining child sex ratio in India has reached emergency proportions and urgent action must be taken to alleviate this crisis. The deteriorating ratio from 976 girls to 1000 boys in 1961, to 927 girls in 2001, and to 918 girls in 2011, demonstrates that the economic and social progress in the country has had minimum bearing on the status of women and daughters in our society,” says Ms. Lakshmi Puri, Deputy Executive Director of UN Women, Assistant Secretary General of the UN.
The study maps existing evidence on gender biased sex selection in the Indian context, weaving in significant social debates and policy developments, and the way forward on action. It offers practical suggestions to advance research and understanding on the subject by focusing on different areas such as family and household, education, labour and employment, and on institutions that directly or indirectly aid or fight the practice of sex selection.
“This report provides a road map for what has a widely researched topic and includes study on several pertinent topics such as the emergence of female infanticide from the mid-nineteenth century, the discovery of declining sex ratios in the 1960s and 1970s through the use of census data, history of relevant legislation and policy and a critique of its implementation, an interesting viewpoint on the extent to which dowry is a cause for the practice of sex selection and, finally, a look at different perspectives for research, namely culture, violence and political economy,” says Dr. Rebecca Tavares, Representative, UN Women Multi Country Office for India, Bhutan, Maldives & Sri Lanka.
The study forms part of a component of the UN’s joint work on Sex Selection. This joint group is made up of UN Women, UNFPA, UNICEF, UNDP, WHO and the UNRCO and endeavours to support the UN’s work on preventing and reducing Sex Selection.
“India has witnessed many critical initiatives made by the government, academia and civil society to understand and resolve the issue of gender biased sex selection. UNFPA has played a key role in drawing attention to the issue in the last one decade, through engagement with multiple stakeholders. UNFPA leads and coordinates the efforts of the UN core group on sex selection in India, and is pleased to support UN Women in this joint initiative to map existing evidence on the issue. This report bears testimony to the research work thus far, and points to the wisdom that we can build on for evolving a definitive response to skewed sex ratios in India,” added Ms. Frederika Meijer, Representative, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) India.
The report also provides a brief overview of the sociological and ethnographical areas of study, including the role of civil society and the state, and changing familial patterns. Unequal inheritance rights, dowry, unequal socio-religious status, unpaid work, unequal pay, lack of economic opportunities for women, focus on male lineage, a culture of honour that places a greater burden of safety and protection on the parents of girls – all contribute to building a society that favours sons and men, and neglects daughters and women.
“The government and the civil society must go beyond policy-making and must quickly identify specific behaviours, cultural attributes, practices, media representations, mind-sets, and notions that propagate discrimination against daughters and, consequently, help sex-determination testing flourish despite its illegality. While we are witnessing a rapidly changing Indian society with modern and egalitarian values finding their way into the traditional and conservative family systems, the numbers, however, prove otherwise. A wider mindset change is crucial if we are to indeed save and empower our daughters,” adds Ms. Puri.
“The Government’s commitment to gender empowerment is evident – from Prime Minister Modi’s speeches confirming zero tolerance for violence against women to the very substantial funds that are being allocated for schemes. When it comes to gender biased sex selection, however, entire social structures including those linked to work, marriage and community need to change and the root causes of son preference, acknowledged and fought,” concludes Ms. Lise Grande, UN Resident Coordinator, UNDP Resident Representative in India. NOTES TO EDITORS:
UN Women is the UN organization dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women. For more information, visit http://www.unwomenindia.org
UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is an international development agency that promotes the right of every woman, man and child to enjoy a life of health and equal opportunity. For more information, visit india.unfpa.org
To read the detailed report, please visit the UN Women website HERE
For more details, please contact: UN Women: Bina Emanvel;
; +918130981081 UNFPA: Shobhana Boyle or Preyam Bhasin,
; +9111 42225018, +9111 46532221 ~~~~~~~~~~
India’s aversion to girls has touched new heights. A new UN report reveals that in some parts of the country, girls-only families are a rarity.
The report ‘Sex ratios and gender biased sex selection: history, debates and future directions’ points out that girls-only families constitute just 2 per cent of families in states like Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan. This figure draws attention to another dimension of the shocking child sex ratio (CSR) – the number of girls for every 1,000 boys under the age of 6 -- in the country. Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan have traditionally recorded the worst CSRs in the country, prompting demographers and gender specialists to describe them as ‘India’s Bermuda Triangle’ i.e. where girl children seem to be disappearing without a trace. The UN study now shows that there are very few families in these states that do not have sons. Other areas of concern too are highlighted. States that were once acclaimed for being more girl child-friendly are changing for the worse. In the past, India’s North-eastern states had more even CSRs. They are now slipping up. Manipur’s CSR has fallen from 957 in 2001 to 936 in 2011.
Pointing to India’s uneven CSR – from 945 in 1991, it has fallen to 918 in 2011 – the UN report describes the situation as an ‘emergency.’ Indeed it is. Girls are not being allowed to be born. Some 500,000 female foetuses are aborted annually in India. An adverse CSR shows that violence against women begins even before she is born. Despite the enactment of legislation to ban determination of the sex of the foetus – sex determination of the foetus often leads to abortion if the foetus is found to be female – its practice persists. Government authorities claim they are helpless as rarely does sex determination of the foetus or sex selective abortion get reported to the police. Social activists have a different story to tell. They point to connivance of local authorities with the crime.
Even when a clinic is ordered to be shut down for violating the law, authorities allow them to re-open. Besides the legal route to tackling sex selective abortions, India must tackle misogynist perceptions that justify violence against women. Our skewed CSR has its roots in our patriarchal culture, one which sees women and girls not just as a burden but as a curse. Such mindsets, which both men and women possess, need to be tackled vigorously through a systematic and comprehensive campaign. ~~~~~~~~~ Wednesday July 29, 2014
Gender-based sex selection practice on the rise
New Delhi: A recent United Nations study has pointed out the worsening trend in gender based sex selection practices – elimination of girl child during pregnancy – in the country.
The study says that though the north-west region, which has been traditionally infested with the malady has reached a plateau as far as the Child Sex Ratio (CSR) in the age group of 0-6 is concerned, the problem has spread slowly across the country.
The report, which was recently released by UN-Women and authored by Mary E John of Centre for Women’s Studies, points out the shift in the 2011 census where the practice reached its peak in the north-west region, and was spreading in large parts of the country. The report says that the provisional results of Census 2011 have added new twists to the saga.
Though CSR is still severe in the north-west, a slight improvement was observed. “It would appear that there has been a peaking (or plateauing) of the practice of sex selection in states like Gujarat, Haryana, Delhi and Himachal Pradesh with actual small improvements from very low levels in Punjab and Chandigarh,” it stated.
The national level CSR improved from 933 girls per 1000 boys in 2001 to 943 in 2011. In worst affected areas there was a slight improvement. In Uttar Pradesh it improved from 898 to 912, in Punjab from 876 to 895, in Haryana 861 to 879 and in Delhi 821 to 868. The report says that the malady has spread across states in every zone.
“Whatever the extent and nature of positive change in north-west India, CSRs are falling in large parts of western, central and eastern India – Maharashtra, Goa, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and even Andhra Pradesh has joined the ranks from among the southern states,” the report says.
The report terms it as the widening of the circle, “In other words, the state wise figures demonstrate a widening of the circle, well beyond the so-called prosperity belt of north-west India, to the poorer states.” The study has also noted some micro-level trends at district levels in worst affected district where CSRs are very low. In these areas no one prefers a family with only girls.
The report pointed out that the district of Fatehgar Sahib in Punjab demonstrated the presence of families with just one son, but very few with only girls.
By Meena Menon A protest in New Delhi against sex selection (The Hindu)
Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan in the dock
In the context of falling sex ratios in India, a United Nations report points to a new level of ‘daughter aversion,’ most starkly visible in the negligible number of girls-only families in some parts of the country.
“Sex Ratios and Gender Based Sex Selection, History Debates and Future Directions” by Dr. Mary E. John, senior fellow, Centre for Women’s Development Studies for UN Women, was released on Tuesday. The report, which reviews existing studies, says it’s time to look at girls-only families, which are starting to disappear they are only two per cent in Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan.
The report says there is no doubt that contemporary India is witnessing a highly gendered version of fertility decline in northwest India.
Extra sons are no longer wanted either. This cannot be read as reduced son preference, says Dr. John who feels that families are planning to have at least one son and at most one daughter. It points to institutions and personnel directly mediating sex ratios at birth, for example clinics and medical practitioners, as an important area for research.
There are studies on the skewed sex ratios of children of doctors and gynaecologists that make it clear that they are guilty of practising sex selection for themselves, the report says. ~~~~~~~~~~ Mumbai ~ July 22 2014
India's child sex ratio drops: UN report
By IANS New Delhi: India needs to take urgent action following a sharp fall in its child sex ratio, a United Nations report said Tuesday.
The study named "Sex Ratios and Gender-Biased Sex Selection: History, Debate and Future Directions", says the child sex ratio in India has deteriorated from 976 girls to 1,000 boys in 1961, to 927 girls in 2001 and to 918 girls in 2011.
The report has been constituted by the United Nations Women with support from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
UN Women is the United Nations organisation dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women.
It also says India is among the few countries where the Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) for girls is worse than boys.
The other countries are Nepal and Bangladesh.
Speaking at the report launch, Lakshmi Puri, deputy director of UN Women, said: "Gender-biased sex selection is first and foremost a reflection of how our society values girls and women."
"The deteriorating child sex ratio demonstrates the economic and social progress in the country has had minimum bearing on the status of women and daughters in our society," she added.
The report offers practical suggestions to advance research and understanding on the subject by focusing on different areas such as family and household, education, labour and employment and institutions that directly or indirectly aid or fight the practice of sex selection.
"India has witnessed many critical initiatives made by the government, academia and civil society to understand and resolve the issue of gender-biased sex selection. The report bears testimony to the research work thus far, and points to the wisdom that we can build on for evolving a definitive response to skewed sex ratios in India," said Frederika Meijer, representative of UNFPA to India.
The report also provides a brief overview of the sociological and ethnographical areas of study, including the role of civil society and the state, and changing familial patterns.
This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed. *************
A major report on sex-ratios and abortion in India gives detailed background information on the scourge of gendercide. Sex Ratios and Gender Biased Sex Selection: History, Debates and Future Directions has been published by UN Women and covers the history, the figures and the debate about the causes of gendercide.
India’s child sex ratio (CSR) – the number of girls for every 1,000 boys under the age of 6 has deteriorated sharply over the past 20 years, dropping to 918 in 2011 from 945 in 1991, even though levels of education and wealth have risen significantly.
The report emphasises that sex-selective abortion has decreased in traditionally problematic regions, mostly in the north, but increased significantly in other areas. In the northwestern state of Punjab, where the CSR was extremely low, the number of female children per 1,000 male children rose to 846 in 2011 from 798 in 2001.
However, in regions like Manipur, in the northeast, and Andhra Pradesh, in the southeast, the traditionally even CSR has dropped below 940.
Dr. Mary E John, author of the report and senior fellow of New Delhi’s Centre for Women’s Development Studies, argues that the decline reflects a common gender-biased family plan: “families are actually ‘planning’ to have at least one son and at most one daughter.” Dr. John suggests that parents are concerned about dependent female adults, rather than female children. Women in India are marrying later and tend to stay live at home for longer, she writes in the report.
The trajectory of gendercide is a little-know feature of the problem. When the British colonised India in the 18th century, they were shocked to discover “missing girls”. Some accounts describe villages without a single girl. In that era, the principal causes seem to have been large dowries and hypergamy, the practice of women marrying men of a higher caste. According to census figures in 1901 put the ratio was at 961 women for every 1000 men, which fell to 946 in 1951, 941 in 1961 and 930 in 1971.
Why does the ratio keep falling even as India becomes more “modern”? The report says:
… two broad claims emerge. On the supply side, as we have repeatedly seen, we have medical technologies, granted fullest agency in the hands of the aggressive radiologist who takes his mobile machine into the hinterland of rural India to vend his wares, unmindful of the criminality of such actions. Such unscrupulous practitioners in turn are being ably supported by multinational capital, and several activists have pointed to the role that companies like General Electric are playing in pushing the market for ultrasound machines, further and further, into India’s rural heartland.
On the demand side, what appears with equal frequency is, quite simply, ‘dowry’. “Like a black shadow in the wake of dowry demands, is the spread of sex selection”.
This is an extremely interesting report which sheds much light on a complex problem.
10 deaths a month during sterilisation ops in last 3 yrs
By Aditi Tandon, Tribune News Service Scroll down to also read of the Politics behind and Appalling conditions within India's Female Sterilization Camps
New Delhi: As many as 10 persons died every month during sterilisation operations across the country over the past three years and 413 surgeries conducted under the family planning programme aimed at population stabilisation, failed.
The data on sterilisation (tubectomies for women and vasectomies for men) surgeries, which the Ministry of Health recently submitted to Parliament, shows that between 2010-11 and 2013-14, at least 363 persons died during sterilisation operations and 14,901 surgeries failed. Analysis of the data reveals that there were 15,264 cases of deaths, failures and severe complications and Rs 50.76-crore compensation was given to affected persons or their next of kin in cases of deaths.
This translates into an average compensation of a meager Rs 33, 255 per person who died or whose surgery failed during sterilisation. Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh and Assam lead the mortality and failure charts.
The data serves as a grim reminder to poor management of the family planning programme which relies heavily on sterilisations, mainly of women. Male sterilisation continues to be low at a mere 4 per cent of the total figure annually.
Statistics show that the management of sterilisation leaves much to be desired. "The other problem is the continued dependence on mass sterilization camps which doctors conduct in unhygienic conditions on poor women mostly without seeking their informed consent or telling them what such an operation entails," says activist Devika Biswas, who had two years ago petitioned the Supreme Court against mass sterilisation camps. The SC is hearing the matter which Human Rights Law Network is fighting.
Experts say unsafe sterilisation camps which mostly target women are the root cause of deaths and failures in the family planning programme which is voluntary by law. The SC had in 2005 laid down guidelines for such camps but these are hardly followed. ~~~~~~~~~~~ June 20, 2013
Inside India's Female Sterilization Camps
By Andrew MacAskill
(Mustafa Quraishi/AP Photo) Sumati Devi knew before she arrived at the grimy government clinic in northern India that she would be paid to be sterilized. She didn't know that she would lie on an operating table with bloody sheets, that the scalpel used on her would be stained with rust, or that she was supposed to get counseling on other birth control methods before consenting to have her fallopian tubes cut and tied. The main reason Devi agreed was that the $10 she received about a week.s wages for a poor family would help feed her three children. "I did it out of desperation," says Devi, 25, as she lies on the concrete floor recuperating at the clinic in Bihar state. "We need the money. Health officials came to our home. They told us it would be best."
India carries out about 37 percent of the world.s female sterilizations. Quotas set by state governments and financial incentives for doctors contributed to 4.6 million women being sterilized last year, many for cash and in the unsanitary conditions Devi encountered. Vasectomies accounted for just 4 percent of all sterilizations. "Women are the easiest prey, whether it.s government officials or their husbands asking them to undergo the operation," says Kerry McBroom of New Delhi-based Human Rights Law Network, which provided the lawyer for an ongoing court case against the government that was filed last year. The lawsuit documents the brutal practices at sterilization camps, where large numbers of women are gathered to have the procedure, and calls on the Supreme Court to issue guidelines to prevent abuse.
Only about half of Indian couples of child-bearing age practice modern birth control methods, United Nations data show. The government doesn.t pursue the costly option of teaching often-illiterate women how to use contraceptives. One in five babies born worldwide is Indian, straining supplies of land, food, and water. "A fast-growing population affects everything: the economy, the environment, quality of life," says Vishwanath Koliwad, secretary general of the Family Planning Association of India, an advocacy group.
Outside the clinic in the town of Sonhoula, 33 women who signed up for surgery line up in the heat as guards carrying bamboo sticks watch over them. They are led into a dimly lit room, with bare concrete floors, and placed on makeshift operating tables propped up with bricks. A.K. Das, the surgeon at the clinic, moves from one operating table to the next as he makes an incision below the navel in each woman, then cuts and ties their fallopian tubes. The patients are laid shoulder-to-shoulder on the floor in a separate room to recuperate. Das, who spends three minutes on each operation, runs out of anesthetic with more than 10 patients to go, forcing him to use a weaker sedative. He says he.s paid an extra $2 per patient by the government for using the weaker drug. It.s more dangerous because the women are not completely unconscious during the procedure. After each operation an assistant washes the scalpel in a tray of warm water.
"Look at this," says Das, pausing during an operation to hold up the rust-stained scalpel he.s using. "This is dirty and that will significantly increase the chance of infection."
A majority of those attending sterilization camps in India are lured by incentives such as money or improved welfare benefits offered by local officials under pressure to meet targets each year, says Abhijit Das (no relation to Dr. Das), director of the Centre for Health and Social Justice in New Delhi. While the federal government formally abandoned targets for sterilizations in 1996, that hasn.t filtered down to all states.
Most of the operations are performed in the first months of the yeara period doctors dub “sterilization season" to fill quotas before the fiscal year ends on March 31. Health workers in Gujarat say they were threatened by their supervisors with salary cuts or dismissal if they failed to meet targets, according to Human Rights Watch. Women are pressured to undergo sterilization surgery without being told they will never again bear children, the group said after interviewing 50 health workers. Repeated calls and e-mails to Gujarat Health Minister Nitinbhai Patel weren.t answered.
S.K. Sikdar, who runs national population control programs at the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, rejects the idea that women go to the camps under duress. "There.s no pressure. People are free to do whatever they like," Sikdar says. "There may be some isolated districts where there are overeager officials, but they are rogue operators." Sikdar says sterilization is "one way" that India is trying to reduce the population, "but we are promoting different birth control methods."
The sterilization program has coincided with a slowdown in the birthrate. India’s population grew 17.6 percent in the decade to 2011, according to census data, four percentage points less than in the previous 10 years. States that have successfully curbed population growth have improved female education, increased work opportunities for women, and made a range of contraceptives available. In Kerala, where female literacy is over 90 percent, the population grew only 4.9 percent.
At the clinic, a medical assistant pricks each woman.s finger, using the same needle, to test their blood for anemia. Flies swarm through the windows. Das, the surgeon, removes his surgical mask after several operations because of the heat. The electricity shuts down, and a generator is cranked up. Dogs walk down the corridors. Nurses step around women on the floor, offering painkillers to those in agony. "The program should be voluntary," says Das, his face dripping with sweat. "There shouldn.t be any targets. The entire system needs to be changed."
The pressure to cut the birthrate never lets up. "At the end of the year we are judged on how many sterilizations we have done," says Dr. M.A. Rashid, who runs the Sonhoula clinic in Bihar. "The government doesn.t want excuses.”
The bottom line: Thirty-seven percent of the sterilizations of women worldwide are performed in India, often in unsafe conditions.
MacAskill is a reporter for Bloomberg News in New Delhi.