Scroll down to also read Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav's tosh "that rural women will not benefit from the Women's Reservation Bill because they are not as attractive as women from the affluent class"!
Women have to develop a thick skin and hit back if they are to play an effective role in Indian politics.
Winter is in the air, and so are elections. And with them, the season of loose talk and personal attacks. Narendra Modi leads the brigade with his one-liners; his verbal arrows become particularly sharp when aimed at women. His constant attacks on Sonia Gandhi are now so old hat that one can ignore them. But what of his sudden lashing out at Sunanda Tharoor, wife of Congress MP Shashi Tharoor? Some other men from his party have joined in. Does this mean this is open season to attack women, even if they are associated with male politicians?
Modi’s jibes at Sunanda Tharoor were in such poor taste that they do not even merit a discussion. But what is worth discussing today, in the light of the forthcoming Assembly elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, and a general election in the not-too-distant future, is the status of women in Indian politics.
Again, much has already been discussed about the powerful and visible women in Indian politics. Each has had a different, and specific, trajectory to the top. The factors that got her there cannot be replicated. But apart from this handful, what is happening to millions of other women who are in politics at various levels?
Ever since the 73rd and 74th Amendments to the Constitution were passed, guaranteeing one-third reservation (now 50 per cent) to women in panchayats and nagarpalikas, millions of women have been exposed to politics. Not all of them have flourished. Many remain mere tokens of their husbands. Despite their numbers, many do not attend meetings, do not have the courage to speak at meetings, and even if they do, what they say is not heeded.
But for every one woman who is a front for a man, there is at least another who has begun to understand what governance is all about. And at least half of these women should have been able to influence the process of governance at this lowest tier. That alone would add up to thousands of women spread across this country.
What happens to these women after they have had a taste of power, realising that they can be heard, that they can make a difference in their villages or towns? Do they subside once their terms are over and go back to the traditional roles ascribed to them, of being daughter, wife or mother? Or do they dream of moving up to a higher tier, perhaps to the State Assembly? Stuck in a limbo There is little data to establish whether women who have served several terms in panchayats, and who have been active participants, get picked up by local political parties to contest elections for the State Assemblies. If such a natural trickle-up process had begun to take place, we would have seen an increase in the representation of women in State Assemblies. Nothing of the kind has happened.
Meantime, as we know, the Women’s Reservation Bill remains stuck, having passed the Rajya Sabha last year, but moving nowhere since then. And with all the rhetoric about giving women a place in politics, there is little to show that major political parties are making any effort to recruit more women to their party ranks.
One could also ask whether the women who are in the political parties – and many of them have become visible faces on television talk shows – have any say in crucial matters in the party. Are they in the working committees, executive committees, election committees or politburos? Are their voices heard where it could actually affect the direction of the political party? If not, they remain mere telegenic faces for their parties at a time when the media has become such an important player.
So if the reality is that, barring a few exceptional women, an effective role for women in Indian politics still remains restricted, why are some men so worried that they would launch personal attacks against women who are not even in politics?
Modi’s misogyny is well known. But one has to ask whether his latest diatribe is a precursor to more such personalised attacks on women in public life. You might say that just as men have to learn to withstand such attacks, women must too. They too have to develop a thick skin. They too have to learn when to hit back and when to hold back. They have to reckon that politics is not just a full-time job – one that allows for no concessions to other commitments – but that it is a dirty game.
This is the reality that probably makes many women hesitate about taking the first step into State level or national politics. It is not as if politics at the panchayat or nagarpalika level is bereft of sexism. In fact, women mukhiyas and sarpanches have also had to face considerable violence in many States. It is possible that they realise that moving up the political ladder brings with it more of this. Yet these women are a valuable resource with their experience in grassroots politics. What a pity that entrenched misogyny and indifference to giving women a fair chance has resulted in us wasting this resource. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Saturday November 10, 2012
Rural women not attractive, won’t gain from women’s bill: Mulayam
Beauty and politics
DHNS and PTI
Barabanki/Lucknow, Nov 9, 2012: Samajwadi Party (SP) supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav kicked up a row with his remark at a rally in Barabanki on Thursday that rural women will not benefit from the Women’s Reservation Bill because they are not as attractive as women from the affluent class.
Mulayam, whose party is in power in Uttar Pradesh and is lending outside support to the UPA government, made the comment while articulating his opposition to the long pending Women’s Reservation Bill. “Bade bade gharon ki ladkiya aur mahilayan kewal upar ja sakti hain, yaad rakhna, apko mauka nahi milega hamare gaon ki mahila me akarshan itna nahin,” (Only girls and women from affluent classes can go forward, remember this, you (rural women) will not get a chance. Rural women are not attractive),” he said.
Mulayam made the remark while claiming that if the Bill is passed, women belonging to the affluent class will march ahead while those from poorer background will be further deprived.
The row over Mulayam’s comment was a throwback to the controversy over his remark, dubbed sexist, in 2010, that if the Women’s Reservation Bill is passed it will fill Parliament with the kind of women who will invite catcalls and whistles. Mulayam, whose party was then in the Opposition, drew flak from political parties and women’s groups. The Bill proposes 33 per cent quota for women in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies.
BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman condemned Mulayam’s remark and said there is a need to get out of the “mindset” of looking at women from the prism of whether they are attractive or not. “We are not a commodity, women have a big contribution to make,” she added.
On Friday, Mulayam said his party would support the Bill if the government agreed to provide quota for Dalits, Muslims and Backward castes.
allies who combated Govt & Police corruption to end Victoria’s backyard abortions
The ABC telemovie event Dangerous Remedy tells the fascinating story of Dr Bertram Wainer. Living and working in Melbourne in the 1960s, Dr Wainer put his life at risk to expose police corruption in an effort to change the law on abortion and put an end to the illegal operations that were killing young women.
It’s a truly inspiring story. Dr Wainer’s determination, even when his own life and that of his family’s was threatened, never faltered. He was living proof that one person can make a difference and change the status quo.
With the support of Dr Wainer’s family, the filmmakers have endeavoured to capture the essence of his struggle to expose police corruption and change the law.
Starring Jeremy Sims, Susie Porter, William McInnes, Maeve Dermody, Peter O’Brien and Gary Sweet, Dangerous Remedy is an intelligent thriller with danger, suspense, complex characters, contradictions and romance.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ PRODUCTION NOTES For Melbourne, as for much of the western world, the 1960s were a time of social upheaval. The establishment and the power brokers came up against the progressive movement. The sight of tens of thousands marching in the streets in protest was increasingly common. Various issues were on the minds of Melbournians: Capital punishment, the Vietnam War, the rights of Indigenous People, immigration, equal rights for women, and the legalisation of abortion. Suits were out, long hair and flared jeans were in, and many young people questioned what they saw as the superficiality and materialism of contemporary life.
Conservative Prime Minster Robert Menzies had been in power for a record term, yet the values and beliefs of Australians were rapidly moving away from tradition. Menzies resigned in 1966; his successor, Harold Holt, went missing at Cheviot Beach in 1967.
Australian women questioned the restrictive roles assigned to them and marched in protest to gain equal rights. The contraceptive pill was introduced in the early '60s and had a significant effect on sexual freedom, which in turn sparked much moral debate about pre-marital sex and promiscuity.
It was just after this period, in 1973, that abortion campaigner, Bertram Wainer, came to speak at Dangerous Remedy producer, Ned Lander's high school.
As Ned tells it, 'I must have been 16 or 17 and he told us the story of what he'd been through - the whole story of backyard abortion and the police involvement. He was wearing a bulletproof vest when he spoke to us. He was a big character, someone who left an impression on you.'
Ned Lander first came up with the idea of making a film about Wainer when he was still at film school in the mid 1970s, but events were too recent and political sensitivities meant that the timing wasn't right. Years later, he was in Melbourne and by chance walked past Wainer's funeral. He went into the church and he again had 'that sense that this was really an extraordinary person'.
Lander took the idea to writer Kris Wyld. Wyld says, 'We talked about the idea: Can one man make a difference? And every scene comes back to that theme.' She goes on, 'I used my police contacts to set up some research, to interview some people on the dark side. That was influential in the way we shaped the characters. And the Wainer families - the children and the two wives - they were incredibly impressive people. Through the children I really got the flavour of Bert. I sensed the power and the audaciousness, the daring, the doggedness, the gutsiness - the bullheadedness of the man. And I admired him. It was love at first sight!'
Lander and Wyld also interviewed women who had personal experience of backyard abortionists. Wyld says, 'For any woman to have to go through that would be a lifelong trauma that you could not recover from. It's barbaric to think of the shame that a woman would have to go through to have a sex life. These things actually pushed the women's movement. There was so much injustice in the way that women had to confront life.'
Injustice is a powerful theme in Dangerous Remedy. Wyld continues, 'The stories that we heard would horrify people today. A chemist who had some evidence that was not conducive to a police standpoint, shoved inside a mental institution, to silence him and discredit him in court. People just disappearing... Corruption was rife. And it's hard for us today to get a feel for the magnitude of what Wainer did, what he was up against.'
The social background to the story is fascinating, but the personal side draws Lander too. As he says, 'When I was younger the point that was interesting for me was Bert Wainer's role as a reformer, but as I've become older I've become more interested in him as a father and as a man who paid a very high price to bring about that reform, and how it's affected his kids.' MAKING DANGEROUS REMEDY Dangerous Remedy was shot entirely on location in Melbourne.
The story is set firmly in the 1960's and all departments ran with the challenges and opportunities presented by creating a period thriller. The locations, production design, costume, makeup and vehicles were meticulously researched to create the world of Dr Bertram Wainer.
The story is set in the two layers of 1960's Melbourne - the underworld of back alleys and gambling dens, and the upper world with its corridors of power and legitimacy.
Costume designer Jeanie Cameron said, "We had access to reference photographs of the real people and did a lot of research about the period and the actual people. We tried to stay close to the feeling of the real people but rather than try to create carbon copies of the real people, the costume design attempts to honour the the essence of their characters. For instance, through our research we know Susie's character, Peggy, was known for her glamour and fun and she had a real spark about her, and so her costume was created to convey that sense of who Peggy was. It was a fantastic challenge, and something that the actors enjoyed and embraced with us. Some of the garments were originals from the period we were able to source, but many were created for the production.
"The story is set in a long hot summer, and at that time men dressed in stiff woolen suits. The costume can add so much authenticity to performance, and Jeremy and William were dressed in the style of the time, complete with hats. Ned Lander explains, 'We met so many people who knew Wainer in our research that we had a real insight into world we were creating.
'It's been my great fortune to work with a brilliant team to deliver this extraordinary story. Writer Kris Wyld in developing the script, whose strong sense of narrative and subtlety of approach has delivered a great screenplay. Ken Cameron, who is one of most accomplished directors in Australian film and television, and Line Producer, Lisa Wang, who helped me put together a wonderful team to make the show,' he said.
Add to this a great cast of some of the best talent from Australian screens: Jeremy Sims, Susie Porter, William McInnes, Maeve Dermody, Mark Leonard Winter, Peter O'Brien and many others. CASTING Jeremy Sims was cast as the larger-than-life champion of social justice, Dr Bert Wainer. 'Although there is a slight physical resemblance, what is amazing is the strong pugnacious fighter quality, the essence of Bert that Jeremy could summon up. Bert had courage and certainty and compassion, but he never lost his sense of humour, and Jeremy brings all of that to the role,' said Ned Lander.
Bert Wainer was also possessed of great personal charm. As Jeremy Sims says, 'He was a charismatic man, he was fond of attention and he was a big personality. He was a bulldog and fighter, and he liked nothing more than to be told he can't do something.
Jeremy continues, 'That phrase 'Cometh the hour, cometh the man' is true. Social change requires a certain personality type - and it may be someone peaceful like Nelson Mandela - but other fights require an aggressive personality, and Bertram Wainer was certainly one of those people who would not be intimidated.'
Detective Inspector Jack Ford is a hugely complex character. Writer Kris Wyld describes him as 'the fallen hero - a truly great hero figure of the time, an elite homicide detective, looked up to by all other detectives, and a man trusted by and with the ear of the powerful. Ford is a tragic figure, in some ways a fallen hero. William McInnes is the perfect actor for this role, as he has the resources to play the balance of both the hero and the fallen man. He is just brilliant in the role.'
William McInnes explains, 'Ford was a brave man and decorated officer with a stream of citations and awards. He was highly respected and in fact, led the investigation into the disappearance of Harold Holt. I think Ford really saw himself as trying to provide a service to women. He didn't like the backyarders, and he didn't like investigating the deaths of women who had been to them. I think he saw the abortion doctors' racket as a way of maintaining a safety net and of course as a way of earning extra coin. While he wasn't a bad man, he was a man with vices. And I think he made a good scapegoat.'
Peggy Berman is the woman at the centre of the story who ultimately has to make a choice. Writer Kris Wyld explains, 'So many of the issues are about choice - women's choices - and Peggy herself personified choice. On one hand she has Wainer, who she admired so much and who was trying to do what was 'right' and who she had a good, fun, teasing time with. On the other hand she had Ford, the heroic cop figure that she had been in love with.'
Peggy was an intelligent, strong, determined woman with a love of jazz and blues, who was drawn to interesting people and surrounded herself with intellectuals, artists, reformists and anti-establishment types. But Peggy was also a highly glamorous woman. Producer Ned Lander knew he needed to find an actress with the ability to supercharge the role with all these traits. Ned explains, 'Susie Porter is an actress with the dignity and grace, the strength and fragility to portray this powerful woman, and I was thrilled we were able to cast her.'
Peggy Berman's personal journey over the course of the film is one of the story's lynchpins. Susie Porter comments, 'Peggy Berman worked with the doctors and was a go-between for the doctors and the police. She was fine doing this, but it all went haywire. But once Wainer comes on the scene, Peggy's journey is choosing and changing her alliance in the story, and for her personally she suffers illness and loss of a relationship. By the end she has been through a massive change.'
Jo Richardson is the young woman who meets Wainer through the Abortion Law Reform Association and goes on to join forces with him. She was a student activist and deputy editor of Melbourne University student newspaper Farrago, and a passionate campaigner for social justice. In the film Jo is played by Maeve Dermody.
Kris Wyld explains, 'Jo is still alive, still campaigning and working in the area of women's health. She was a great believer in the cause and wants to bring about change in a way that is very different to Wainer's way. But in this story she also represents the young women at the centre of this issue.'
Ned Lander picks up the story, 'In fact, it took 40 years to change the law. Jo Wainer continued to campaign until the law was finally changed in 2008. She never lost the rage.' In 2010 she was recognised with an Order of Australia.
Maeve Dermody is the daughter of feminist Sue Dermody (who coincidentally was one of Kris Wyld's lecturers at UTS). Interestingly, Kris points out that 'there is a real similarity between Jo and Sue in their political approach to life and in their thoughtful natures.'
Maeve says, 'Jo was a student and an activist, but I read somewhere that it was through this period that she says she became a radical. While she was already involved in the Abortion Law Reform Association, it was after meeting Bert she became more exposed to the truth of the situation, and she became more informed, and in a sense became a warrior. There is something very sturdy and strong and serious and determined in Jo.'
Lionel Pugh was a journalist who had been active in the campaign to end capital punishment when the Bolte government hung Ronald Ryan. His was a newspaper police rounds man writing for the new national newspaper, The Australian.
Mark Leonard Winter who plays Lionel was shocked by the events depicted in the script. Mark says: "Reading the script at first you were just like "did this actually happen"? I couldn't believe all these events were taking place and it sort of reads like an action movie. Pugh is a fascinating character. He was an idealist and really believed in social justice. He became involved in this campaign and may have ended up paying for it with his life. I think being a young adult in the late 60's and early 70's was an amazing period of time for believing that you can change the world, make a difference and actually help people.'
PRODUCER'S STATEMENT - NED LANDER Bert Wainer came to speak at my high school in 1973. I was impressed, as many have been, with his charisma and sense of purpose. His crusade was part of the social changes sweeping through Australian society in the 60's and 70's: the sexual revolution, the position of women and widespread questioning of the moral authority of structures of power, many of which had become highly corrupted.
Visiting Melbourne seventeen years later, I literally happened upon Bert's funeral. His wife, ex-wife and children from both marriages were there. People from all walks of life had turned up to pay tribute to Bert, touched by his life and his work.
This script has long been in development. It's a rich story and a great yarn. It has danger, suspense, complicated characters, contradictions and romance.
It's a story populated with extraordinary characters: Peggy Berman, the working class girl made 'good' who became a go-between for the doctors and the corrupt cops. Jo Wainer, who continues to campaign for women's rights to this day; Jack Ford, the fallen hero of the Homicide squad.
I continue to meet people who have their own stories tied to Bert's: the man who sold him his cars and put the bolts through the exhaust pipes so explosives couldn't be stuck up them, the doctor who cared for him after his fourth heart attack, newspapermen who worked to ensure the public heard the story and, of course, his family who have been so generous in sharing their experiences with me.
This story is timely and as relevant as ever today. The recent case in Queensland of a young couple who were arrested and tried after seeking an abortion exemplifies the continuing struggles between legal frameworks, moral assumptions and individual circumstances. These conflicts draw on tensions between deeply held beliefs, forces of power, rights and liberties and entrenched positions. These questions go to the heart of our democracy and our society. The individual experiences of these forces at play are often difficult and sometimes heartbreaking….
It is my hope that Dangerous Remedy challenges, enlightens, entertains, and stimulates debate. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
1890 The Melbourne Age describes the growing underground practice in abortions.
1901 At Federation, abortion in Victoria is governed by the 1861 British Offences Against the Person Act, under which any person convicted of an unlawful abortion is liable for 15 years jail, whether or not the woman was pregnant. This act was designed to protect women from the dangers of unlawful interference; it was not designed to protect the foetus.
1904 The Royal Commission into declining birth rates finds that the decline is due to the 'selfishness and pleasure-seeking' of women.
1920s Abortion is widespread, despite its illegal status. Abortion services are lucrative and businesses are well known. Wealthy women accessed private gynaecologists, middle-class women increasingly sought the services of physicians, while working-class women utilised a traditional network of midwives.
1928 Bertram Wainer born in Edinburgh. He leaves school at 13, and migrates to Australia at the age of 21. 1928-32 Police crack down on midwives providing abortions, thus removing the safest option available to lower-income women. Poor women are forced to find alternatives, causing a massive rise in backyard and self-induced abortions.
1930s At this time a third of all the mortality of mothers is caused by abortion.
1934-41 Deaths following abortions reach their peak. The rate of maternal mortality rate is otherwise halved at the same time. 1938 In the U.K. Dr Bourne is found not guilty following his trial for terminating the pregnancy of a fourteen year-old girl raped by five soldiers.
1944 A Royal Commission finds that women are 'deliberately limiting' the size of their families through the use of contraception and abortion.
1960 Bertram Wainer becomes an Australian Army doctor, serves for six years in Australia and New Guinea and reaches the rank of colonel before resigning because of Australia's involvement in the Vietnam war. He sets up in private practice in St Kilda, Melbourne.
1960s Immigration is promoted to counter the declining natural population. Conservatives fear that abortion and immigration will threaten 'White Australia'.
Police crack down on medical practitioners performing abortions. An entrenched network of graft and corruption sees police continue to benefit from the illegality of abortion.
1967 Abortion legalised in the UK.
A woman comes to Bertram Wainer for help following a botched backyard abortion. She refuses to go to hospital for fear of police interrogation and arrest. This marks the beginning of his long campaign to legalise abortion in Victoria.
A shift is evident in public acceptance of abortion for socio-economic reasons.
1967 Establishment of the Abortion Law Reform Association at Melbourne University. Jo Richardson (later Wainer) volunteers as inaugural secretary.
1969 A raid on a Melbourne doctor's surgery sees patient files seized by police. Bertram Wainer is outraged by the violation of patient/doctor confidentiality by police. 1969 Dr Bertram Wainer runs an ad in the Melbourne Herald Sun advising women who have been approached by police that they have rights and should seek legal advice. The advertisement suggested that for further advice about their rights women might call him. It gave his name and phone number.
1969 Bertram Wainer claims that police run protection rackets involving backyard abortionists. The Truth in Melbourne publishes his allegations. Affidavits are later handed to the solicitor-general to back up the claims.
1969 R vs. Davidson. Dr Charles Davidson is charged with 'unlawfully using an instrument' to procure the miscarriage of a woman. Justice Menhennitt rules that abortion might be lawful if necessary to protect the physical or mental health of the woman, provided that the danger involved in the abortion did not outweigh the danger that the abortion was designed to prevent. It is the first ruling on the legality of abortion in any part of Australia.
1970 Peggy Berman and others make affidavits about police involvement in a protection racket around illegal abortions. The Victorian state government orders an internal police inquiry. Berman and co refuse to give evidence to the police inquiry and eventually the government appoints William Kaye QC to head a judicial abortion inquiry.
The Kaye Inquiry finds 13 officers are implicated in the racket. Three police officers are jailed for receiving bribes and offering protection. Doctors' role in corrupt practices is not subject to scrutiny. Some commentators say that the focus on corruption is a cynical way of avoiding law reform.
1972 Wainer sets up the Fertility Control Clinic, which offers public access to abortion with no upfront fees.
2008 Premier John Brumby announces that 'our existing laws are out of step with community sentiment' and proposes that legislation be passed to decriminalise abortion.
A new law passes through state parliament in September 2008 giving women the right to make the decision.
BIBLIOGRAPHIC REFERENCES Gregory, Robyn, 2004, 'Corrupt Cops, Crooked Docs, Prevaricating Pollies and 'Mad Radicals': A History of Abortion Law Reform in Victoria, 1959 – 1974', PhD thesis, RMIT University, Melbourne.
Gregory, Robyn, 'Hardly Her Choice: A History of Abortion'
Law Reform in Victoria, Women Against Violence: An Australian Feminist Journal, No. 19, 2007: 62-71, accessed HERE
By Anne Summer THE opening scene of Dangerous Remedy, the ABC TV drama about Dr Bertram Wainer's campaign to end illegal abortion, had a powerful effect on me because it was so like the backyard abortion I had in 1965. I lived in Adelaide at the time. Everyone knew you went to Melbourne, but where in Melbourne?
A friend made some discreet inquiries and I was told to look in the Pink Pages of the Melbourne telephone directory in the Barr Smith Library at the University of Adelaide. I turned to the listing of medical practitioners and saw there were asterisks beside several of the names. As I copied them down with the phone numbers, I wondered how I was going to begin the long-distance conversation necessary to get an appointment.
The word ''abortion'' scarcely existed. Occasionally there was a reference in the newspapers to an ''illegal operation'' that had resulted in a woman's death or the arrest of a doctor, or both. It was a long time before I even vaguely understood what such an operation was since my mother was not willing to explain it to me. Even when I did know, I knew no one who had ever had one. Later, of course, women would talk openly about their abortions when they pressed for the laws to change to remove the fear and the risks and the financial exploitation that, in 1965, still went with terminating a pregnancy. If they could not find a doctor willing to risk his licence (in return for an exorbitant fee), many frantic women felt they had no choice but to try to ''get rid of it'' themselves. Countless women resorted to potions and tablets or, in absolute desperation, tried to induce a miscarriage by using a coathanger or similar sharp instrument. Each year in Australia in the 1960s, as many as 10 women died as a result.
Dr Bertram Wainer in 1971 reading the abortion inquiry report. Wainer successfully lobbied for legal access to abortion for women in Victoria.
I went back to my doctor. He was willing to prescribe contraceptives for single girls, which made him an out and out radical. However, he drew the line at abortion. He confirmed that I was pregnant but said there was nothing he could do to help if I planned to do something illegal.
I armed myself with a stack of two-shilling coins and went to a public phone box to make the trunk call to Melbourne. The woman who answered was reassuringly friendly. She gave me a date and time, then told me I had to bring cash on the day: the operation would cost £120. I was thunderstruck. This was far more than I had anticipated. There was no way I could raise that kind of money. My salary at the university library was only £15 a week. I told the woman I would need to look for someone cheaper. Kindly, she gave me a name. ''I think he charges about £60,'' she said.
A few weeks later, I was standing early one evening on the corner of Collins and Russell streets in Melbourne where, it had been prearranged, the doctor would pick me up. We drove for what seemed a long time to a surgery somewhere in the suburbs. I was blindfolded. Another doctor was waiting for us, but there was no one else around. I should have been frightened: no one in the world knew where I was. I did not let myself think about what would happen if something went wrong. I just wanted it to be over, the nausea and the pregnancy, the feeling of shame and guilt about what was to happen.
I undressed and climbed onto the table, noticing with horror the plastic bucket on the floor beneath. Suddenly, the reality of what was happening hit me. I was to have an anaesthetic and that was why the operation was still expensive. I did not know at the time that there were other, cheaper options, and I am glad that I didn't because I worry even today what I might have done. As I started to go under, I heard the two men discussing my body. They were speculating about what I would look like in a bikini.
After I woke up, one of the doctors drove me to a St Kilda flat rented by a girl I knew. She was a strict Catholic and, while willing to let me stay, she didn't want to know anything about why I was there. The flat was on the third floor and there was no lift. I was so groggy that the doctor had to practically carry me up the stairs. He then went away and came back with six large bottles of lemonade, telling my friend I would be very thirsty when I awoke. He also left the name and phone number of a Collins Street specialist in case anything ''went wrong''.
Two days later, I began to haemorrhage and suffer bad cramp-like pains. I went for a long walk through the gardens near the Shrine of Remembrance on St Kilda Road, hoping the exercise might help. It didn't. I felt absolutely alone. And scared. I rang the Collins Street doctor and he told me to come in the next day. It was a public holiday. His rooms were deserted. He was a horrible old man with a fat belly and heavy breathing that suggested catarrh. I felt inexplicably nervous being alone with him. He had not been present at the abortion but he acted as if he were the person who had organised things.
He gave me some tablets he said would stop the bleeding. He also told me he would pay me a commission if I sent other Adelaide girls to him. As I was leaving, he grabbed me and tried to kiss me. I was very pleased a few years later to read that he had been charged by the police when the Victorian abortion rackets were exposed.
I returned to Adelaide and started university. Two weeks later, I turned 20. For the first few weeks of my student life I walked around haemorrhaging. Instead of the excitement of starting a new phase in my life, I felt miserable and tainted, envious of all the other girls who seemed so carefree and full of life. Eventually, the bleeding forced me back to the doctor who had refused to help me get an abortion. He looked at me with increasing horror as I told my story.
''How long have you been bleeding?'' he exclaimed. He picked up the phone. ''I've got a girl here who's been mucked up in Melbourne,'' he told the North Terrace gynaecologist. ''Can you help her?''
A few days later, I was in the gynaecologist's rooms, hearing him tell me I had what was known as ''an incomplete abortion''. In other words, despite the pain and the trauma and the huge amount of money, the abortion had not been done properly. I needed to go into hospital for a D&C (dilatation and curettage). No wonder, I thought, shaking with rage, no wonder the Collins Street doctor was trying to buy me off. He knew. The old bastard, he knew.
The medical solution to my problem was not easy. I had no money, I explained to the doctor, because every penny I could lay my hands on had gone to pay for the interstate trip and the abortion. Nor, in those pre-Medicare days, did I have any separate health insurance; as a student who lived at home, my parents would need to sign the claim. I did not know what I was going to do. Then my luck changed.
This man whom I had met less than half an hour earlier arranged for me to be admitted to a large public hospital as a teaching patient, which meant there would be no charge. He also organised for it to be over Easter when there would be no students - and when my parents were planning a trip away so they would not know. He gave up several hours of his Easter holiday weekend to come and do the curettage. He never sent me a bill.
I have often wondered why this man did this for me. Perhaps he and some of his more enlightened colleagues recognised the damage that was being done to women by the outlawing of abortion. As my experience and that of countless others in those years demonstrated, making abortion illegal did not prevent women from seeking to end unwanted pregnancies. All it did was make abortions dangerous and expensive - and turned otherwise law-abiding people into criminals.
If the law had permitted the doctor to perform the D&C in a hospital in the first place, there would have been minimal if any medical risk. As it was, he performed exactly the same operation as I had paid £60 for in a back room in Melbourne. He completed legally the abortion the Crimes Act said I was not allowed to have.
Dangerous Remedy screens on ABC1 at 8.30pm on Sunday.
By JAYATI GHOSH Lack of economic literacy is why people are not in a position to interrogate economic policies that are often presented as “inevitable”.
PRANAB MUKHERJEE, when he was Union Finance Minister, interacting with students at the West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences in Kolkata after delivering the K.C. Basu Endowment Lecture on "India's Development, Economic Policy and the Law" in 2011. At left is West Bengal Finance Minister Amit Mitra (ARUNANGSU ROY CHOWDHURY)
THERE is no shortage of problems that plague public policy and social life in India today. But one of them is not talked about very much, though it has important even crucialramifications for people’s lives: the lack of basic economic literacy. This is a widespread problem, not just among ordinary citizens but even among the media, legislators and elected representatives, decision-makers in public and private organisations, and others.
This has very adverse consequences because it means there is usually an inadequate understanding of the processes that are set into play by particular policy choices, or of other possibilities. So the public at large is not in a position to interrogate economic policies that are only too often presented as “necessary” or “inevitable” according to some opaque but supposedly technocratic determination.
One reason for this is, of course, the disagreement among economists themselves about the nature and workings of economic processes. After all, in this discipline (not just in India but across the world) there are continuing and unresolved debates on almost everything. The underlyingbut rarely explicitpolitical and ideological predilections of different economic analysts determine not only the choice of assumptions made in theoretical models but even the analyses of empirical outcomes. Even well-established ideas tend to be clouded over either by a miasma of obfuscating jargon or by so many signs of two-handedness (“on the one hand, on the other hand”) that people are just left confused.
But another reason for the lack of more widespread economic literacy is the glaring absence of books that can provide clarity to cut through the debates and provide a basic understanding of economic processes. Although I have been teaching and researching in economics for more than three decades, I am still hard put to think of any title when people ask me for an easy, approachable introduction to the subject that can be understood by intelligent laypersons as well as those who have a direct interest in understanding economic mechanisms. And this is even more the case for books that provide a perspective relevant for developing countries like India.
This is why a new book by G. Omkarnath ( Economics: A Primer for India, Orient Blackswan, 2012) comes as a welcome addition. It is usually an act of great courage to write an introductory book on anything, and it is probably even more courageous to do so for a subject like economics. This book is nothing if not ambitious: it attempts “to bridge the gulf between the real world and introductory economics” by introducing the subject through the medium of the Indian economy.
Given the grand nature of this task, the author has done a surprisingly good job, presenting the basic ideas of the economic structure of society and of change through time in a logical, clear and consistent manner. Omkarnath concisely discusses issues of production, distribution and growth; of market functioning and how it can be socially embedded; of the significance of macroeconomic variables such as savings and investment and how they are measured; of government policies and their effects on economies, including both state intervention and liberalisation; of the challenges of economic diversification and industrialisation in affecting both productive structures and employment; of the significance of petty production as well as the persistence of informality; and other issues directly relevant to the Indian economy.
Part of Omkarnath’s success in presenting and clarifying basic concepts is that he eschews the method employed by most standard textbooks of focussing on the logic of individual choice in an abstract system of competitive markets. Because this abstraction is so far removed from reality, it does not allow those who have grasped its internal principles to move easily into a consideration of the world around them and contemporary economic processes.
So a yawning gap is created between the closed world of so-called theory and the more complex and dynamic economic realitya gap that has led students in Europe, for example, to protest against the autistic nature of the economics discipline that they were exposed to and generated a movement for “post-autistic economics” that has now culminated in the study of “real world economics”.
Instead of conforming to the autistic pattern, this book unfolds within the observed reality of the Indian economy. There is no explicit obsession with “theory” as in the courses on economic principles that still form the staples of undergraduate and graduate pedagogy. But that does not mean that theory is absent; rather, theories are described and elaborated upon in relation to the observed reality, which serves as an effective way of promoting their comprehension.
As noted in the preface to the book: “The specific apparatus deployed is a mix of intuition, simple concepts and measures, accounting relations and bits of history. The user will have learnt to follow reports on the economy and to appreciate the role of economic policy.” This may seem like a relatively modest achievement, but in fact if it is successful this will be a huge advance because so many peopleincluding those whose professions actually require them to have these skillsare typically not able to interpret the economic reality around them.
Several elementary mistakes that are frequently made in the financial press are gently clarified. For example, consider the number of times there have been headlines screaming that “prices are coming down!” when what is actually meant is that the rate of inflation is coming downso prices are still rising but at a slower rate. A box on measuring rates of inflation describes various methods in a clear way, and also notes how for annual inflation, the point-to-point method (which is the one most frequently presented in the media) may not capture reality as well as the average of all 52 weeks of the year.
Another significant feature of the book is its recognition of distributive issues of how different economic processes and policies have different distributive outcomes, and that nothing is “neutral” in that sense. This enables a better understanding of the political dynamics that are closely associated with economics, within national economies and in international economic relations.
Obviously, in a book that attempts to deal with so many important concepts and to cover such a large ground in a relatively short space, there can be quibbles about the weight given to different ideas or about the degree of explanation provided for particular concepts or processes. But these are really no more than quibbles because the overall result is an impressive one.
This book should be required reading not just for the average person who wants to know more about how the economy and economic policies affects his/her own life, but also for mediapersons, government officials and legislators who determine economic policy, and even those regularly engaged in pursuing the profession in different ways.
This may be a sad commentary on the state of public knowledge about economics. But the unfortunate truth of that statement shows how important it is for books like this one to have very wide readership and dissemination.
There is growing violence against women and children in Haryana, aided by the apparent collusion between the State government and the upper-caste-dominated khap panchayats.
OCTOBER 15, ROHTAK, HARYANA: Lathi charge on a women's rally that was organised to protest against the increasing violence against women in the State and the khap panchayats' infringement on the rights of young people and women (RAJEEV BHATT )
THE road leading to Dabra village in Haryana’s Hisar district is not very difficult to locate. It was at Dabra, a mere 15 kilometres from the district headquarters, that a heinous crime was committed on September 9. It would have gone unnoticed had it not been accompanied by another tragedy.
Sixteen-year-old Suman (name changed), daughter of a daily wage labourer, was on her way to her grandmother’s home in Patel Nagar, a residential colony in Hisar town, when she was accosted by some young men from her village near a semi-deserted canal. The young men, all from a dominant caste in the village, abducted her. They then took her to a field on Tosham Road and forced her to consume some intoxicant. She was then raped by seven people, while five stood guard. And this happened in broad daylight.
On September 18, nine days after the incident, she mustered enough courage to tell her mother, who had been wondering why the cheerful and intelligent girl was morose and unhappy. Her father sent his family away to a relative’s house and discussed the matter with some other residents of the village. But his attempts to file a police complaint failed because of fears within his own community and threats from the caste group to which the rapists belongs. After he was sent word that pictures of the incident would be made public if he reported the matter, he committed suicide by consuming a pesticide.
In Dabra, where caste polarisation is strong, there are around 800 households of Jats, 150 homes of Chamars (a Scheduled Caste to which Suman belongs), 150 homes of Dhanaks (another Scheduled Caste), and a few families from other castes and social groups. The S.C. community is dependent on the dominant caste groups as agriculture is the main occupation, like elsewhere in the State. “In Hisar in particular, the caste divide and hierarchy are very strong. At Dabra, Dalits cannot sit on chairs in the presence of Jats,” said one of Suman’s aunts.
It was no surprise, therefore, that until September 21, none of the accused was arrested despite being identified by the victim. There were other reasons too. State Industries Minister Randeep Singh Surjewala’s wife happens to hail from Dabra. “A lot of pressure was put on my father not to register a case. They tried to bury it by making us compromise, saying that I would have difficulty in getting married,” Suman told Frontline. Her two aunts, one of whom is a former Councillor, have stood by her. Suman’s mother hardly spoke a word during the interaction with Frontline. The loss of her husband, the violence her daughter suffered, and the public humiliation of it all had numbed her into silence. The mother, who had studied until Class 12 and taught in a school, sat there with her head held low, swallowing deeply from time to time.
CPI(M) POLIT BUREAU MEMBER Brinda Karat with the mother of a rape victim at the Rohtak rally. (RAJEEV BHATT )
Eight of the 12 accused were arrested almost a fortnight after the incident. The police security provided to the familyaround 20 policepersons are posted in the villagehas failed to instil confidence in the household. “We want the family to be relocated in the city. It is not safe for them here. If they stay here, they will be forced to withdraw the case and compromise. I wonder which Dalit girl will go to school at this rate,” asked another of Suman’s aunts.
Not an isolated case The Dabra case is not a stand-alone one in Haryana. There has been a spate of attacks on women of all ages, including minor girls, in recent years. In May last year, Sweety, a Class 12 student, was kidnapped from a market in Kurukshetra district, gang-raped and murdered. For four continuous days, there were angry protests by students who blocked the roads.
Over the last one month, as many as 20 instances of rape, including gang rape, were reported. On October 11, the six-year-old daughter of a migrant labourer from West Bengal was kidnapped from her father’s rickshaw by some young men, raped, and then left to her fate. She survived, but doctors said she would not be able to conceive.
THE FAMILY OF THE GIRL from Dabra who was gang-raped in September. Her father committed suicide and the family faced pressure not to file a case (RAJEEV BHATT)
On September 28, a newly wed woman was lured, kidnapped and raped by four persons in Sonepat district. On the same day, a Class 11 student was lured into a godown and raped by four persons.
On February 28, a Class 9 girl from Barar village in Bhiwani district was kidnapped while on the way to the market, taken to the fields and raped by five men.
There is no denying that there is a broad pattern to the violence, but it cannot be seen purely in caste terms. While the majority of rape victims have been Dalits, crimes in the name of honour have taken place where girls from the dominant castes have been the victims. In some cases, the victim and the perpetrators were from the same community. In this context, the statements of Congress and opposition leaders and of self-styled khap panchayats have been far from responsible.
One Khap Mahapanchayat leader demanded that the age of marriage be lowered to 16 years as a response to increasing crimes against minors. The statement was later retracted on October 13 at a Jat Khap Mahapanchayat meeting at Sonepat following strong protests.
The meeting, which held the electronic and print media responsible for the rise in crimes against women, reiterated the demand for an amendment to the Hindu Marriage Act to prevent rapes.
Khaps had made a similar demand for an amendment in the Act declaring same-gotra marriages illegal after the award of the death sentence (later commuted to life) in a brutal honour-killing case.
In July, the stamp of approval for khaps came from none other than Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, who urged them to deal with issues as serious as the implementation of the Pre-Conception Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act.
“On the one hand, the PCPNDT Act is not implemented properly. On the other, they want the khap panchayats to play an active role in curbing female foeticide,” said Jagmati Sangwan, vice-president of the All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA).
Police lathi-charge protesters In sharp contrast to the general laxity shown by the police and the administration in dealing with crimes against women was their swift and violent response to those protesting against these crimes. On October 15, the police violently lathi-charged a peaceful rally of 19 women’s organisations, with schoolchildren and young girls participating in it, at Rohtak, the home district of the Chief Minister, injuring at least three people.
Activists alleged that at the barricades put up to prevent women from marching to the Deputy Commissioner’s office, police hit them on their feet and legs, invisible to the cameras that were stationed at a height. But the frontal lathi charge was captured in photographs. “I did not expect them to attack women. We do not see such things in Delhi,” remarked a shocked cameraperson who had travelled from Delhi to cover the protest. As many as eight cases, including cases of assault on a public servant, inciting a mob, and assembling unlawfully were filed by the police against 18 persons.
The rally was organised by women’s organisations and civil liberty groups led by AIDWA. At the rally, families of rape victims spoke out boldly against administrative apathy. The participating groups buried their differences and castigated the State government and the Centre for their silence and inaction over a range of issues concerning women.
A delegation that met the Chief Minister on October 17 received non-committal answers to many of its queries and demands, including one for the withdrawal of cases against people like former Rajya Sabha member Brinda Karat and AIDWA state vice-president Jagmati Sangwan for having organised and led the October 15 rally. “The Chief Minister told us that the footage taken by the administration showed that we had invited the lathi charge by our aggressiveness,” Sudha Sundararaman, general secretary of AIDWA, told mediapersons in Delhi on October 18.
The Congress’ ambivalence On October 9, United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi visited a Dalit rape victim’s family in Jind district. The perpetrators were also reportedly Dalits. The victim had immolated herself, though there were rumours that the death was a case of honour killing following the exposure of her relationship with one of the accused. Significantly, she stayed away from Dabra where the accused were upper-caste men and where the victim’s family was clearly under pressure not to file a case.
In Mirchpur in April 2010, around 18 Dalit homes were torched after a petty fight between some upper-caste and Dalit young men. A disabled girl and her aged father died in the arson. The support extended by some khap panchayats to the Mirchpur accused caused further caste polarisation and resentment.
“When [Congress general secretary] Rahul Gandhi went to Mirchpur after the incident, the dominant community did not like it one bit. Perhaps the UPA chairperson refrained from going to Dabra because she did not want to alienate the party’s main vote bank. The girl is alive and struggling to pull herself together. Her family would have got a lot of moral support had the UPA chairperson decided to visit her,” remarked a political commentator. At a time when khap panchayats aggressively suppress the democratic rights of young people, women and the weaker sections, the laudatory note by the Chief Minister and the award of Rs.1 crore to a khap panchayat have left no one in doubt about the kind of caste politics being played in the State.
The delegation that met the Chief Minister on October 17 on behalf of 21 groups submitted a memorandum demanding that all complaints of rape and sexual harassment be investigated without delay and action be taken against police officers obstructing the delivery of justice. It also demanded the rehabilitation of victims, including counselling and other forms of assistance such as jobs. It also demanded that no constitutional sanction or government sanction be given to khap panchayats.
Indeed, the State government’s inability to rein in the khaps and its own partisan role have created an atmosphere of insecurity among some social groups. Caste polarisation has deepened as Dalits increasingly demand their rightful wages and work under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and react sharply to caste-based insults. The All India Agricultural Workers Union has played a crucial role in this.
Politically, the Dalits still remain a minority with none in the Congress leadership, including Dalit leaders in the party, willing to speak up for them.
One Congress leader even said that 90 per cent of the rapes were consensual. A mild stricture followed, but neither the State Congress leadership nor any responsible Congress person at the Centre bothered even to condemn such shocking utterances. The Pradesh Congress president, Phoolchand Mullana, a Dalit himself, even commented that the outcry over rapes in the State was part of a political conspiracy.
“We have to see what they finally do. The Chief Minister told us that he would set up district-level committees to monitor crimes against women. The committees would include the District Commissioner and the Superintendent of Police, and would meet twice a month to expedite cases and supervise other aspects,” said Jyotsna Chatterji of the Joint Women’s Programme. She also expressed concern that the attitude of the Haryana administration was similar to the one seen in response to the recent spurt in crimes against women in West Bengal. “What is happening? I come from a State where the Chief Minister denies that incidents of rape are taking place,” she said.
The larger context Haryana has one of the highest per capita incomes in the country. It is self-sufficient in food production and reputed as a major manufacturing hub and a leading producer of automobiles and automotive components. But it has an abysmal record in human development indicators. It is one of the States that have the lowest child sex ratio in the country. Many of the developing urban centres in the State are located in Hisar district. Haryana Agricultural University, a premier agricultural university in the country, is located here. It also has a well-known steel production unit owned by a Congress leader. Industrially, agriculturally and economically, Hisar is among the well-performing districts in the State. But it is also where the Mirchpur incident occurred.
“The reasons being given for such escalation of crimes are truly amazing. The influence of Western culture is said to be one of them. Some say it is attributable to a breakdown of law and order; others recommend lowering the age of marriage, and some others say it is because of the declining sex ratio. But there has to be a reason for the decline of the sex ratio also,” said Inderjit Singh, State secretary, Communist Party of India (Marxist). D.R. Choudhary, former Chairperson of the Haryana State Public Service Commission and a keen social commentator, told Frontline that there appeared to be no fear of the law at any level.
It is important to view the social, political and economic context that has created the conditions for the spurt in crimes against women, children and other vulnerable sections. The current policies of the State and Central governments are responsible for the overall degeneration. Institutionally, too, there are drawbacks. There is no mechanism for the compensation or rehabilitation of victims of violence.
The State does not even have a Scheduled Caste Commission, nor does it have a fully constituted State Women’s Commission.
The crime graph is likely to keep rising as there is a refusal at all levels to look at the systemic reasons. The tragedy is that even the symptoms are not being taken seriously. To effectively look at the conditions behind the degeneration would require a vision that neither the Hooda government nor the Central government has at the moment.
FOUR out of five victims of domestic violence desperate for help were turned from a crisis refuge last year because it was full.
Sonas Housing revealed almost 600 vulnerable woman living with abuse made contact in 2011, but only 130 woman with 250 children could be taken in.
Anne McKeon, chair of Sonas Housing Association, said the lives of women and children are at risk by the lack of support nationwide.
"There is a real need for more domestic violence spaces in the community to alleviate this risk," she said.
Demand for Sonas almost doubled since 2010, the organisation revealed.
Almost 850 woman made contact in 2011, including 250 who needed long-term housing or outreach support, but on 550 occasions women were turned away. Approximately 70pc had children.
Its annual report (Scroll down for link to read in full) revealed December and June were the quietest months for demand, but were followed by massive spikes in February and July which were the busiest.
Ms McKeon said the trends in demand are often family related.
"In December, mothers are aware that children want to spend Christmas in their homes," she continued.
"Younger children may worry that Santa may not be able to find them if they move into a refuge.
"In June many children finish their school year or take formal exams so mothers often wait until these are completed before making a move out of an abusive situation.
"In our experience women try to hold a situation together for the sake of their family."
Women and children who get access to emergency services at Viva House in west Dublin are later helped to move safely on to independent living.
But the charity argued that Ireland lags way behind the Council of Europe standard of refuge provision of one family unit for a population of 10,000.
Instead of 424 family refuge spaces, Ireland has 131, with many counties having no service, it added.
Researchers also found domestic abuse is endemic in the lives of many women who are homeless.
Housing Minister Jan O'Sullivan said she is determined to work in partnership with organisations such as Sonas to provide appropriate and secure options for individuals and families escaping domestic violence and rebuilding their lives.
"The notion that a 'home' is not 'safe' seems like an extreme contradiction to most of us fortunate enough not to have to face the issue of domestic violence and abuse in our daily lives," she said.
"It is for this very reason that we welcome the fact that domestic violence is no longer seen as a private issue - it is our responsibility to protect this vulnerable sector of our society.
Four out of every five women unable to access our services
Posted on by padminsonas
Four out of every five women calling a women’s crisis domestic violence service in Dublin are turned away because the service is already full, according to findings from Sonas Housing’s 2011 annual review.
The review, launched today by Minister Jan O’Sullivan, found that in 2011 the Sonas’ refuge Viva House received almost 600 enquiries from women living in abusive situations but it could only able take in 130 women because the service was already full.
The same trend was seen in Sonas longer-term housing projects.
The demand for Sonas almost doubled that of 2010 and has risen incrementally over the past five years, in part because Sonas has opened new services including Viva House crisis refuge. However the demand is in no way being met by the over-stretched services in operation.
“Not having space available is a serious risk to the lives of many women and children,” said Anne McKeon, chairperson of Sonas Housing Association. “There is a real need for more domestic violence spaces in the community to alleviate this risk.”
The report found that December and June were the quietest times in terms of demand. The quiet months were followed by massive spikes in February and July which were the busiest months of the year.
“The trends in demand are often family related,” said McKeon. “In December, mothers are aware that children want to spend Christmas in their homes. Younger children may worry that Santa may not be able to find them if they move into a refuge. In June many children finish their school year or take formal exams so mothers often wait until these are completed before making a move out of an abusive situation.
“In our experience women try to hold a situation together for the sake of their family.” Approximately 70% of the women who use the Sonas services have children.
“For the women and children who can gain access to our services, we are able to support them and help them move safely away from abuse and on to independent living,” said McKeon.
Download a copy of the report HERE If you would like a print version please email: