Recent Resources for Feminists
India: New research again demonstrates Two Child Policy to be anti-women & anti-girl child Print E-mail

 Tuesday September 9 2014

2-child norm for local bodies skews sex ratio

By Rukmini S
Research finds drastic consequences

India’s attempt at a China-type population control policy appears to have had drastic but unintended consequences. Laws enacted by State governments in the late 1990s and 2000s restricting political eligibility to candidates with two or less children did reduce family sizes in those States, but severely affected the sex ratio, a new research has found.

Over the period, 11 Indian States passed laws disqualifying persons with more than two children from contesting panchayat elections. Some States like Bihar, Gujarat and Uttarakhand enacted such laws later, while Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh repealed their laws after 2005. Uttarakhand and Bihar implemented the law only for municipal elections.

In a working paper, economists S. Anukriti from Boston College and Abhishek Chakravarty of the University of Essex looked at seven States ­ Rajasthan, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Maharashtra ­ in which such laws were in effect between 1992 and 2005.

Using data from various rounds of National Family Health Survey (NFHS) and District-Level Household Survey (DLHS), the researchers found that there was a marked decline in the number of women in the general population reporting third births exactly one year after the new policy was announced; the first year was a “grace period” in all of the State laws.

This decline was relative to that State’s own history of decline in fertility as well as other States which didn’t enact such laws.
 Monday September 8 2014

Anti-poor, anti-women laws: expert

By Rukmini Srinivasan

New Delhi: Laws enacted by 11 State governments in the late 1990s and 2000s restricting political eligibility to candidates with maximum two children has severely affected the sex ratio, a new research has found.

So did the norm for politicians effect a change in the overall population? “We think that the effect is not so much from a role-model effect via people emulating local leaders, but more from people’s desire to remain eligible for future elections themselves. This is because the decline in fertility begins immediately after the grace period ends, whereas a role-model effect would take some time to become visible,” Dr. Chakravarty explained to The Hindu.

The research by economists S. Anukriti from Boston College and Abhishek Chakravarty of the University of Essex also shows that the enactment of these laws led to the worsening of sex ratio in these States. This was particularly true for upper caste families whose first child was a daughter.

There is evidence that men were divorcing their wives to remain eligible for elections, and that such laws were putting the third children at a disadvantage, Poonam Muttreja, Executive Director of Population Foundation of India, told The Hindu . “These laws – which are purely political decisions – are completely unacceptable. They are anti-poor and anti-women,” she said. “In a country with such a vast unmet need for family planning measures, which is unable to guarantee the survival of children, it is unacceptable that such laws are imposed,” Ms. Muttreja said. Across the world, data has shown that when women got educated, they reduced fertility themselves without needing laws, she said. Moreover, such laws disproportionately impact the poor whose children have worse chances of survival, Ms. Muttreja said.

In 2009, Chintaram Sahariya, an adivasi farmer, stood for and won the sarpanch’s seat in his panchayat – or so he thought. The losing candidate appealed against Mr. Chintaram in Rampur Todiya, a panchayat in Rajasthan’s Baran district, and the latter was disqualified. “I have four sons and admitted as much in my affidavit. I had no idea about the law. The man who appealed against me himself had three children,” he told The Hindu over the phone. “You will not find a Sahariya with less than four children,” Mr. Chintaram said. “So should all of us quit politics?”

Iraq: OWFI’s feminist outreach offered to all woman captured & exploited by ISIS criminals Print E-mail

September 3, 2014

Call for Iraqi Women Victimized by ISIS

Scroll down to also read  interview with OWFI spokesperson Houzan Mahmoud indicating "Political parties need to draw women into their ranks to make themselves credible"

The Islamic State of Iraq and Levantine (ISIS) atrocities, since the occupation of Mosul city, have shocked the Iraqi and the International community altogether. Their criminal conduct is abysmal against Iraqi women in general, and specifically against the Yazidi, Christian, Shiite Shebek and Turkomen women.

The women are kidnapped and sold in groups and as individuals, to become temporary wives for ISIS warriors where they are forcibly held as sex slaves under the name of “Sexual Jihad.” Those atrocities have escalated throughout the month of August in line with committing genocide against the minority communities. As the massacres committed against the Yazidi, Shiite, and Christian communities were followed by the taking of hundreds of women to the newly set-up “concubine market” in Mosul, to the cinema building in Telafar, all the way to the Syrian depth of Islamic state, for the purpose of selling those women as sexual slaves.

Moreover the “purchase” of sexual slaves is made easy and “affordable” for the foreign ISIS warriors who came from distant countries, while the prices are higher for local war lords, tribal heads.

Some women however, are being used as human shields in order to protect the ISIS facilities from airstrikes, such as in the case of Telafar. The ISIS organization has caused Iraqis unprecedented catastrophic conditions throughout the captivity of women similar to the Islamic conquests that took place thousands of years ago; thus creating pain and devastation beyond any modern expectation, uprooting some of the most ancient communities who never witnessed this extent of horror, massacre, and insult to their dignity, denying them any possibility of a secure life in the near future. ISIS do not hesitate to commit any horrendous crime even towards children such as the beheadings or selling their human organs; as they take advantage of selling women and trafficking in children’s organs for the purpose of financing their state.

OWFI hereby reaches out to every woman detained or exploited by the criminal organization of ISIS in Mosul, Telafar, Sinjar, as well as the Western cities of Iraq. We in the OWFI stand with you and strive to provide logistic and financial support to you in order that you escape your concentration camps controlled by ISIS. We will send individuals who can help you to arrive at our safe home in Baghdad where we provide you with all the care and safety you need.Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq. Call us at our organization numbers: (07800) 036317 or (07700) 036317

To all women chained and detained by ISIS slave-drivers, to all women who are forced to hide in their homes, to girls who aspire to live the in freedom dignity, and to all Yazidi women and Turkomen Telafar women, contact us at these numbers listed above and we will find a way to deliver financial and logistic support to get you to our houses safely. We beg you not to end your life or undervalue it in any way, or surrender to despair as a result of heavy torture or humiliation under the hands of ISIS criminals. Tomorrow brings hope with, and after every storm comes sunshine.

Long live Yazidi, Christian, Talafer, and Amerli women, in freedom and dignity Down with the ISIS monsters
August 28, 2014


September 7, 2014

Houzan Mahmoud: Political parties need to draw women into their ranks to make themselves “credible”

Hazhar Osman: What is your opinion on Islamic State jihadists?

Houzan Mahmoud: I would rather call them ISIS terrorists, since in my opinion Islamist jihad has always been about terror and terrorism. We can no longer separate the two terms, jihad and terrorism. Terror against defenceless civilians and massacres of non-Muslims – even Muslims who are not from the same religious sect – have become visible characteristics of jihadist/terrorist groups. Look at all the Islamic governments in our region: They are very similar to ISIS, if not the same. Anything to with Islamism and jihad has a very similar outcome for people in terms of brutality. What ISIS did recently, regardless of their origin and who is behind them and why they arrived in Mosul, is in itself a big story. At the same time we all saw how they are targeting Shiite civilians, Christians, Yazidis, and all other religious groups in Iraq.

I will always associate jihadists/terrorists with killing and rape, taking women as sex slaves to sell in ISIS slave markets and beheadings of civilians. They will never have any other associations in my mind and memory. We should all remember what they’ve done to Yazidi women, Christians, and other groups. They have left a dark stain and created a bloody history for themselves. Kurdistan will never be the same again; we should never tolerate Islamist terrorism and genocide. Kurdistan and its Peshmerga forces have proven to be in the forefront of fighting against these forces of darkness and medievalism.

Hazhar Osman: Why women are involved and fighting for ISIS jihadists?

Houzan Mahmoud: Women involving themselves in politics over the past decades have become a noteworthy phenomenon in the Middle East. People join political parties because the particular ideologies fit with their ideals of life. Of course there will be men as well as women joining ISIS for different reasons. Many political parties including Islamist parties, both those who are in power and outside of power, have women in their ranks. Also, each political party needs a huge membership, men or women it does not matter, so long as they can attract new people and recruit them into their ranks.

Having women involved in politics has been a result of the ongoing struggle by women to be part of the decision making in political parties and in government. Women constitute half of society. But women are no longer only home makers; they are also present at work, at university, and even in the military in some countries. Political parties need to draw women into their ranks to make themselves “credible”.

Above all, Islamic jihadist/terrorists want women for sex. A huge part of their propaganda has been about sex and sexual jihad. They promise men 72 virgins in heaven and sexual jihad or Jihad Al-nikah on earth, whereby female terrorists will serve male terrorists by providing sexual services. The whole idea of the sexual objectification of women has been part and parcel of their politics. After all it is taken from their holy book and Islamic Sharia law.

Hahzar Osman: Many feminists held the view that women are marginalized in Kurdish policy making, but we have seen many women politicians as spokespersons of their country in this life-and-death situation. What are your views on this?

Houzan Mahmoud: I would still argue that women in our region are not fully empowered and our existence is not fully acknowledged. We have been struggling on many fronts with our male counterparts. Women themselves have made gains and proven their public existence by entering the many professions, politics, art, education, and even the Peshmerga. Despite this, we are still far from being seen as equal human beings in our societies.

Let me make it clear here that having women in high-party posts and as spokespersons does not necessarily reflect their own will. We know in politics that people have to follow the party line and agenda, even if that agenda is detrimental to women’s rights and empowerment. Of course I am for women’s presence and existence in all spheres of life. The important thing is we must continue with our fight for rights, freedom, and dignity for society as a whole. However, if the system is patriarchal and has retained all the structures that discriminate against women, how can women politicians be visibly effective?

Hazhar Osman: Tens of thousands of Yezidis, Christians, and other minorities in Iraq have been displaced, including children and women. What should Kurdish authorities do for them? Do you believe that they may face abuse, rape, and death?

Houzan Mahmoud: What has happened to our Yazidi brothers and sisters is genocide. This was not the first time: Yazidis have been subjected to genocide several times in history. What ISIS terrorists did to all groups in Iraq, and especially to Yazidis, by kidnapping women and children to sell as sex slaves is horrendous and beyond my worst nightmares. Let alone the beheadings and the massacres of Yazidi men. All of us are duty bound to publicize it, talk about it, tell the world, make films, and write the story as it happened.

Let me say that the Iraqi regime is useless and dysfunctional. Above all, it’s an ethnic-sectarian regime. They did not want to, and were incapable of, providing protection to anyone. The Iraqi regime is itself part of the problem, containing as it does representatives of political parties that are as bad as ISIS.

Although my hopes are not very high for the Kurdistan Regional Government, they should work harder to save Yazidis and bring back the captured women and girls. Also they should fully compensate people who have lost their homes, bread winners, children, and loved ones. The victims need care, attention, support, and solidarity. Their ordeal will need to be discussed and coped with for many years to come.

I am deeply saddened and shocked by all the brutality taking place in our region today. Islamists and right wing fascists are targeting particular groups and turning people’s lives into hell. Political Islamist ideology should be countered more forcefully wherever it raises its head. Our society has gone through many ordeals; we don’t need this outdated religious ideology to ruin our gains, lives, and countries. It should be pushed back into the desert where it belongs.

Houzan Mahmoud is a Kurdish women’s rights campaigner, and the Spokesperson of the Organisations of Women’s Freedom in Iraq. She was born in Iraqi Kurdistan in 1973 and currently residing in London. Her articles were published in UK publications including The Independent and The Guardian, The Tribune, The New Statesman and others. Houzan is an international voice for women’s and workers’ rights in Iraq and Kurdistan; led many campaigns internationally, including campaigns against the rape and abduction of women in Iraq, and against the imposition of Islamic sharia law in Kurdistan and Iraqi constitution. She led many other campaigns around the world against so-called honour killings, and against violation of freedom of expression. She has written many articles about the situation of women in Iraq, Kurdistan and Middle East, which have been translated into and published in many languages.

Australia: Equal Pay Day Sept 5 reveals women working an extra 64 days to earn same as men Print E-mail

 Thursday September 4 2014

Women must work an extra 64 days to equal mens' pay

By Alana Schetzer/Reporter

Women may be able to do it, but they must work 64 extra days a year to achieve the same wages that men earned in the previous financial year.

Industrial segregation and "unconscious bias" is leading the growing gender pay gap, the head of Australia's Workplace Gender Equality Agency says.

WGEA director Helen Conway said the dominance of men in top-level jobs and a culture of bosses promoting employees they can relate to meant women faced extra hurdles to receive equal pay.

"There is plain discrimination, some of it is conscious and [some] unconscious. There is gender bias in the way we make pay decisions and other ways that impact pay," she said.

"An organisation may pay women and men doing the same jobs the same amounts, but have an organisation-wide gender pay gap because women are under-represented in management, and over-represented in lower-paid roles."

September 5 is Equal Pay Day, which represents the 64 days since the start of the new financial year, when women's earnings match those of their male counterparts.

"Workers in female-dominated industries tend to receive lower wages than those in male-dominated industries, such as mining," Ms Conway said.

Recent Australian Bureau of Statistic figures show the gender pay gap has widened to a 10-year high. Women are now earning less than their male counterparts for the same work since records were first collected in 1994, with an 18.2 per cent difference.

According to the ABS, the average ordinary full-time weekly earnings for men is $1559.10 compared to $1275.90 for women. In the past 12 months, men's average salary increased 2.9 per cent, but women realised an increase of just 1.9 per cent.

The federal government and businesses are facing increasing pressure to address the growing gap

 executive officer Sally Jope said getting more young women into non-traditional industries such as trades, mining and construction was key to helping address the growing wage gap.

"There's no reason why women shouldn't be represented in those industries," she said.

The pay gap starts immediately for most women. A recent report from Graduate Careers Australia revealed the average starting salary for a female university graduate in 2013 was $51,600 compared to men's $55,000. The biggest gap is in architecture and building, where there is a $6500 pay gap.

Women also fall behind in superannuation, with the average retirement fund one third of what men retire on - $37,000 compared to $110,000.

WGEA will launch a new campaign encouraging some of Australia's biggest companies to establish a gender pay audit at the end of September.

More than 4000 chief executive officers and human resource teams will be invited to take part in the program to help lift the current 18 per cent rate of gender pay audits.

India: The Political Economy of Surrogacy - Huge profits vs. Exploitation of Women & Desire Print E-mail

Monday August 25, 2014

Clamour grows for stringent regulation of surrogacy

By Bindu Shajan Perappadan

The ‘rent a womb’ industry in India is witnessing a boom, with infertility affecting one in every six couples. Commercial surrogacy, of which Delhi is a known hub, was legalised in India in 2002. The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has predicted the industry will generate $ 2-3 billion annually.

In India, while the exact numbers are not recorded, guess estimates put the number of children born to surrogates at 25,000, with 50 per cent of the clients coming from the West.

What works for India is the cheap medical facilities, advanced reproductive technological know-how, coupled with poor socio-economic conditions, and a lack of regulatory laws.

Accepting that India is fast being recognised as an “attractive option” for commercial surrogacy centre, human rights activists maintain that while commercial surrogacy in itself is welcome “where persons unable to have children are aided by willing surrogates to have their biological children, problem comes in due to the exploitative nature of the business and lack of regulation in the industry”.

“No fixed compensation structure, no laws that cater to the health and number of births that a surrogate can support and usually incomplete advertisements of the services by medical establishments work against the interest of the women involved in the case,’’ said Dr. Ranjana Kumari, director, the Centre for Social Research.

A report on “?”[Read in full HERE] supported by the Ministry of Women and Child Development noted that 46 per cent of respondents in Delhi, and 44 per cent in Mumbai said they received Rs.3 lakh to Rs.3.99 lakh for being a surrogate mother. Among those interviewed, 68 per cent in Delhi and 78 per cent in Mumbai said they were employed mostly as domestic helps earning more than Rs.3,000 a month. “This clearly points to the exploitative nature of business,” noted Dr. Kumari.

There are two main types of surrogacy ­ gestational and traditional and in India it can be arranged through an agency or independently.

“With the country becoming a hub for surrogacy, there is an urgent need for a stringent legal framework to regulate it. The unregulated reproductive tourism industry of ‘procreating’ through surrogacy is rapidly increasing in India, while there is still no legal provision to safeguard the interests of all the major stakeholders involved in the surrogacy arrangement, i.e., the surrogate mother, the child or the commissioning parents,’’ said Dr. Kumari.

According to the study conducted by the Centre for Social Research in 2011-12, it was revealed that though the Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) Regulation Bill, 2010, did bring forth certain important points, for the legal framework to be based, it has left out many crucial issues relating to surrogacy arrangements.

The study noted that there are many issues besides sex selection and exploitation of the poor surrogate mothers.

“There are countries that do not allow surrogacy; what would the nationality of the child be when the intended parents are from that country? About 48 per cent couples opting for surrogacy are foreigners,” noted the study. The CII notes that the industry is growing in India because it is largely unregulated and cheap.

“Clinics function in tight cliques, with unrelated centres like dental clinics sometimes assisting fertility clinics. Although there are no fixed rules related to the amount of compensation for the surrogate mother, it is arbitrarily decided by the clinics. Often the woman who delivers the baby is paid very less for it. Though the couple who wants to have a baby through surrogate mothers pays anything between Rs.2 lakh and Rs.5 lakh to agents, the woman who delivers the baby gets only Rs.75,000 to Rs. 1 lakh,’’ adde Dr. Kumari.

India: Lack of political will & poverty retain the infamy of nation’s global third of child brides Print E-mail
 Tuesday August 26, 2014

‘Poverty, lack of education undermining efforts to end child marriage’

Scroll down to also read "India Refuses To Co-Sponsor 2013 UN Resolution To End Child Marriage"

The Hindu A United Nations report in July said that India has sixth highest prevalence of child marriage, with one in every three child brides living in the country. (P.V. Sivakumar)

India has witnessed a decline in child marriage in the last two decades, but going by the slow pace it will require another 50 years to abolish the practice from the country, according to UNICEF.

“Child marriage has been declining at a rate of one per cent per year in the last two decades, but at this rate it will be eliminated in 50 years or so,” UNICEF Child Protection Specialist in India Dora Giusti told PTI.

“This is way too long and millions of girls will have married by then,” she warned describing the scenario in the country as “alarming”.

“A study among married women currently aged between 20-24 revealed that 43 per cent of them were married before 18 and two out of every five women during the survey said they were married as children,” Giusti explained.

Incidentally, a United Nations report in July said that India has sixth highest prevalence of child marriage, with one in every three child brides living in the country.

Stressing that the practice of child marriage was still prevalent in certain communities and groups in the country, the UNICEF official held deep-rooted superstitious beliefs as responsible for its slow elimination.

“Child marriage is still a widely accepted practice ruled by social norms and gender roles. Girls are still seen as a burden and not worthy of investing on. For generations, once girls hit puberty, their parents have married them off in the false belief that this will also protect them from violence,” Giusti explained.

“Often communities are resistant to welcome changes. Furthermore, there are other factors, such as poverty, high costs of marriage, lack of education and other opportunities for girls that undermine change the practice,” she elaborated.

Asked if the government’s cash transfer scheme as incentive to encourage retention of girls in school has helped in containing the practice, she said: “A recent study showed that the scheme has helped keep girls in school and therefore delay child marriage, but it did not have a long-term effect as it does not contribute to changing parents’ mental set-up.”

According to the official, “political will” was needed to eradicate child marriage completely from the nation.

“Child marriage can be eliminated completely from the country only if there is a political will at all levels and concerted efforts are undertaken to systematically address it through education, opportunities for girls, better income for families, and continued awareness raising programmes,” Giusti stated.

Tuesday July 22 2014

India home to one in every three child brides in world: UN


 In this June 17, 2012 photo, 16-year-old Vinod of Pali village in Bihar, is seen with his 14-year-old bride Pratima. (Ranjeet Kumar)

About 27 per cent of women aged 20 to 49 years were married before age 15 in India, UNICEF said in a report titled "Ending Child Marriage - Progress and prospects."

India has the sixth highest prevalence of child marriages in the world, with one in every three child bride living in India, a United Nations report said.

Child marriage among girls is most common in South Asia and sub­Saharan Africa and India is among the top 10 countries with the highest rates of child marriage, UNICEF said in a report titled “Ending Child Marriage ­ Progress and prospects.”

“South Asia is home to almost half (42 per cent) of all child brides worldwide; India alone accounts for one third of the global total,” the report said.

Worldwide, more than 700 million women alive today were married as children or before their 18th birthday.

More than one in three ­ about 250 million ­ entered into union before age 15, the report said.

The 10 countries with the highest rates of child marriage are Niger, Bangladesh, Chad, Mali, Central African Republic, India, Guinea, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso and Nepal respectively.

In India, about 27 per cent of women aged 20 to 49 years were married before age 15.

About 31 per cent of women in that age group were married after age 15 but before they turned 18.

The report added that in India, the median age at first marriage is 19.7 years for women in the richest quintile compared to 15.4 for the poorest women.

In the Dominican Republic and India, the wealthiest women marry about four years later than the poorest women.

UNICEF said that Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and child marriage are the two practices that affect millions of girls across the globe.

It said while prevalence has decreased slightly over the past three decades, rates of progress need to be scaled up dramatically to offset population growth in the countries where the practices are most common.

“Female genital mutilation and child marriage profoundly and permanently harm girls, denying them their right to make their own decisions and to reach their full potential.”

“They are detriments to the girls themselves, their families, and their societies,” UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said.

“Girls are not property; they have the right to determine their destiny. When they do so, everyone benefits.”

 Sunday July 13, 2014

Tamil Nadu: Child marriages rampant in Namakkal district

By S. P. Saravanan

SALEM: The absence of an effective law to curb child marriages and lack of awareness among parents are seen as major reasons for rampant child marriages in Namakkal district.

As many as 176 girl students of government schools had been forced to quit their studies and were married off in the past two years.

A survey conducted by Lead Society and Namakkal Childline 1098 in 40 schools revealed that 176 girls got married, while 14 were engaged.

Marriages were performed while five were studying in Class VIII, 28 in Class IX, 50 in Class X, 47 in Class XI and 46 in Plus-Two. The study revealed that the highest number of child marriages took place in the Pallipalayam area-32.

It was followed by 21 at Senthamangalam, 17 at Mohanur, 16 at Tiruchengode and 15 each at Erumapatti and Puduchatram.

Of the total 117 dropouts reported, the Kolli Hills topped the list with 46, Senthamangalam-17, Elachipalayam-13 and Puduchatram-12. Girls who were found to be discontinuing their studies were married off within a few months.

Age difference
S.L. Sathiya Nesan, director, Lead Society and Childline, Namakkal, told The Hindu that an increase in labour population at Pallipalayam and Senthamangalam was the major cause for child marriages in these areas.

“The age difference between the girl and the man is high in many cases, and the girl’s parents need not give any dowry in such cases,” he added.

“Lack of awareness among the parents and fear of safety of the girls also contribute to the trend,” he said.

He said that on Collector V. Dakshinamoorthy’s instructions, awareness campaigns would be conducted in schools and for parents in vulnerable areas in the district. “We will highlight the welfare schemes, and the child protection laws and ask the parents and children to abide by them,” he added.
 October 16 2013

India Refuses To Co-Sponsor UN Resolution To End Child Marriage

By Hunter Stuart

India, which has more child brides than any nation in the world, has decided not to co-sponsor a United Nations initiative to end child marriage.

The proposal -- the first ever U.N. Human Rights Council resolution against the practice of child, early and forced marriages -- has already been co-sponsored by 107 other countries on multiple continents.

Adopted Sept. 27 in New York, the motion recognizes child marriage as a human rights violation and pledges to eliminate the practice, as part of the U.N.'s post-2015 global development agenda.

India reportedly refused to sponsor the measure because of the resolution's vague definition of "early marriage," The Hindustan Times reports.

"Since early marriage has not been defined anywhere, there was no clarity on the legal implication" of co-sponsoring the resolution, an Indian government official said, per the Times.

But some say that's the wrong move for the South Asian country.

“Early marriage cuts short [girls’] education, places them at risk of domestic abuse and marital rape, and makes them economically dependent,” Human Rights Watch South Asia director Meenakshi Ganguly told TIME.

Although the legal age for marriage in India is 18 for girls and 21 for boys, its 24 million underage child brides constitute nearly half of all child brides in the world, according to The Times of India.

Correction: This article has been revised to reflect that the legal age for boys in India to get married is 21.

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