Recent Resources for Feminists
UK: Cameron-led Tory Coalition’s austerity cuts paint dim hopes for women’s economic recovery Print E-mail
 London ~ Sunday 22 September 2013

Spending cuts hit women worse, says report

Call for changes in tax and welfare policies as coalition is accused of locking women into poverty

By Tracy McVeigh

 Women demonstrate against welfare cuts in Tottenham, London, in April this year. (Patricia Phillips/Alamy)

Economists are calling on the government to produce a "Plan F" to tackle the disproportionate burden being placed on women by spending cuts. Female-friendly tax and welfare policies are desperately needed to redress the balance, say experts from the independent Women's Budget Group (WBG), who have produced a report [Read HERE] looking at the impact of austerity policies on different types of family groups in England.

It finds that women, particularly single parents and single pensioners, have lost much more than men from cuts to benefits and public services imposed by the government since it came to power in May 2010.

In the analysis by economists from the WBG, made up of policy experts and academics, those two categories – both dominated by women – face cuts during the period 2010-15 of more than 10% of their disposable income, with single mothers losing 15.6%. Couples with children were shown to be losing 9.7%, while couples without children are losing 4.1%. Women pensioners are losing 12.5% compared with men, who lose 9.5%, and couples, who lose 8.6%.

The "gendered impact" of the austerity cuts paints an alarming picture for the economic recovery of women in England and has led to calls for a "Plan F" – a constructive economic plan to reduce the disproportionate impact of cuts that is locking many women into poverty. The study looked at the cumulative effects of changes to direct and indirect tax and cuts to services as well as social security benefits. It included measures already introduced and others due before the next election.

"What struck us is how single women in all groups do so badly," said Professor Diane Elson of the WBG, a social scientist at the University of Essex. Unemployment rates in the UK have fallen for men and risen for women over the past three years. Out of every 100 jobs created in the private sector, 63 are going to men and 37 to women. Public sector cuts have reduced job opportunities for women and are making it harder to combine earning a living and taking care of families, and also making it more likely that the gender pay gap will widen, she said. "Our big concern is that, even when there is an economic recovery, women are going to be so far behind they will not be able to catch up."

The WBG report looked at the tax cut that was meant to help those on low incomes – the rise in the income tax threshold to £10,000 by the end of 2015 – and found that 57% of those who will gain from this are men and 43% women. Three-quarters of the gains under the change will go to better-off households within the threshold, with the wealthiest 10% gaining £87 a year and the poorest 10% gaining on average £6 a year. The WBG contrasted that gain with the 2011 rise in VAT, which hit everyone in the country, along with the 10% rise in prices over the period of the current government.

"Over the last few years we have seen a worrying trend towards growing inequality and we are concerned that this shows no sign of a let-up," said Elson. "We need the political parties to start to recognise what's happening here and to look at their policies more closely. We need an F-plan."

Australia: New PM Tony Abbott takes just one week to prove his disdain for women Print E-mail

Scroll down for link to sign the petition which reads: "Prime Minister Tony Abbott: Appoint somebody qualified [Meaning "NOT yourself"] to be the Minister for Women"

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 September 22 2013

Same old argument from same old 'men of merit' to keep status quo

By Bianca Hall, Immigration correspondent

A cabinet with one woman is just the start of a lack of balance.


  Liberal senator Sue Boyce. (Andrew Meares)

Paul Keating was only half-right when he described the Senate as ''unrepresentative swill''. He forgot the House of Representatives.

The chattering classes were transfixed this week by news that Prime Minister Tony Abbott's new cabinet would include but one woman among a sea of 18 suits and just six women in 42 ministry, outer ministry and parliamentary secretary positions.

This, when women comprise 51 per cent of the population.

Abbott proclaimed himself ''disappointed that there are not at least two women in the cabinet'', but added: ''There are some very good and talented women knocking on the door of the cabinet and there are lots of good and talented women knocking on the door of the ministry.''

They just can't get in.

Abbott's ''woman problem'' is now a structural deficiency of women in key cabinet positions that could take years to remedy.

But this is nothing new. Women are just the latest group of Australians relegated to minority status in our parliaments.

Where are all the MHRs and senators from Asian, African and Middle Eastern backgrounds? From Aboriginal heritage? The out-and-proud gay and lesbian Australians?

There have been notable exceptions, among them former Labor prime minister Julia Gillard's ''captain's pick'' to propel the first Aboriginal woman, sporting great Nova Peris, into the Senate.

And Longman LNP MP Wyatt Roy pointed out the Coalition this year has drawn successful candidates from a broader range of backgrounds than the usual legal pedigree, including former journalist Sarah Henderson.

But the overwhelming majority of our parliamentarians are university-educated, middle-class white men.

While counting drags on for the 45th Parliament, let's look back at the previous one. Then, just 29 of 226 MHRs and senators were born overseas, most in England, New Zealand, Scotland, Ireland and Wales.

According to the parliamentary library, about 13 per cent were either migrants from non-English-speaking backgrounds, or were the children of parents from non-English-speaking backgrounds.

In the broader community, 47 per cent of us were either born overseas or are second-generation migrants.

Women comprised 29 per cent of the Parliament.

The most common qualification in the Senate was a law degree (31 of 76 senators held one).

It's hardly representative of our community. So why can't a broader mix of people get a look in? And does it matter?

Maybe it doesn't. Maybe former Howard government minister Sharman Stone didn't have the merit of Peter Dutton or David Johnston, who have been included in Abbott's cabinet.

Maybe captain's picks that propel people into Parliament who might never survive or be bothered with the preselection processes of both our major parties are indeed a handout, not a hand-up, and a perverse form of discrimination.

Or maybe our country is, and our Parliament would be, richer for their voices being heard.

Can a Parliament filled mainly with men from mostly similar backgrounds really understand the struggles endured by - for example - single mothers being kicked off the parenting payment and onto the lower dole?

Can they empathise with the struggles of new migrants, battling to fit in to a bewildering new culture or, on their base salary of $195,130 a year, understand the plight of pensioners?

These days, non-political types are much more likely to be elected to the Senate than the House of Representatives. From the kangaroo poo-throwing would-be Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party senator Ricky Muir, to the ever-growing proliferation of Greens, proportional voting systems have given us more variety than Labor and the LNP's preselection processes - which also have an iron grip on the Senate - ever will.

Those who would argue for the status quo argue that merit decides who rises to the top. But it's clear that merit is a subjective force when it's bound by the strictures of the major party's systems.

Departing Liberal senator Sue Boyce gave a scathing assessment of the merit argument this week, writing on the ABC's The Drum: ''If I hear the phrase 'woman of merit' one more time I'll, I'll … do something drastic.

''When was the phrase 'men of merit' last used?'' she asked. ''Is every male MP a 'man of merit'?''


To Boyce, arguments about merit were ''a nonsense''.

'' 'Women of merit' is a term used by ultra-conservatives who want to maintain the status quo - it's a smokescreen for sexism.''

In the same vein, excusing away the absence of parliamentarians from Aboriginal, Asian, African and Middle Eastern backgrounds - in somewhere at least approaching the same numbers they represent in the community - is a smokescreen for maintaining a status quo that shames us all.


Is anyone prepared to say these Australians don't have the same merit, and the same right, to be there, as those who fill these halls?

Bianca Hall is The Sunday Age's political correspondent.
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 London ~ Friday 20 September 2013

Tony Abbott as Australia's women's minister? Can't a minister for women be more like a woman

If one takes an unedifying trip back through Abbott’s pronouncements on women in the past, he makes for an unlikely candidate

By Alice Jones



Bridget, Frances and Louise Abbott must be very proud of their father. He has just been sworn in as the new Prime Minister of Australia, which is a pretty awesome thing to be. Even better, the three girls can take a bit of credit for his triumph at the ballot box. With their lovely long hair, slim ankles and bright smiles, these well turned-out little ladies – we can call them that, right? – pulled in a good few votes for Daddy. And, to be fair to him, Tony Abbott was never coy about their help. “If you want to know who to vote for, I’m the guy with the not bad-looking daughters,” he told the nation earlier this month.

Indeed, Bridget, Frances and Louise – a trainee radiologist, a student and a diplomat, respectively – became one of Abbott’s favourite electoral weapons. When he told a school netball team that “a bit of full body contact never hurt anyone”, they stood by his side and laughed, only a bit awkwardly. And when he endorsed his fellow MP Fiona Scott for having “a bit of sex appeal”, they rolled their eyes and indulgently described it as “a daggy dad moment”. Most of us daughters are lucky that our dad’s daggy moments are confined to dancefloors at weddings and Christmas lunches, I suppose, but then most of us do not have dads who are world leaders.

Now, as the confetti is swept up and their fresh, white victory dresses are hung up, the Abbott gals have yet another reason to be proud of their father. He has appointed himself women’s minister. On paper, this is a progressive move. A male Prime Minister who is so keen to put women’s issues at the heart of his government that he is personally taking charge of them – what could be more modern and feminist than that?

Sure, there are some alarm bells clanging in the background. The fact that Abbott appointed just one woman – Julie Bishop – to his 19-strong cabinet this week is an appalling state of affairs. Australia now has less female representation at cabinet level than Afghanistan. Abbott has said that he is “disappointed” that there aren’t more women in power. “Nevertheless there are some very good and talented women knocking on the door of the cabinet,” he added, keeping his foot firmly wedged against that door and checking the woman-proof locks on it twice.

Indeed, if one takes an unedifying trip back through Abbott’s pronouncements on women in the past, he makes for an unlikely minister. As appointments go, it’s as apt as Nick Griffin being made Minister for Immigration, say, or Nigel Farage Minister for Europe. This is a man who once framed a debate about rising electricity prices in terms of the “housewives of Australia” doing the ironing. A man who has described abortion as “convenient” and an “easy way out” for women. A man who once said, and it deserves to be quoted in full: “It would be folly to expect that women would ever approach equal representation in a large number of areas simply because their aptitudes, their abilities and interests are different for physiological reasons.”

Not for nothing did the former Prime Minister Julia Gillard denounce Abbott as the face of misogyny in modern Australia in a blistering speech last year. But then she would say that; she and Abbott never really got on. He notoriously ordered the unmarried PM to “make an honest woman of herself”, posed in front of placards describing her as a “man’s bitch” and a “witch” and refused to denounce a party fundraiser dinner which included the grossly demeaning dish, “Julia Gillard Kentucky Fried Chicken Quail – Small Breasts, Huge Thighs & A Big Red Box” on its menu.

In June, before she too was marginalised, Gillard warned that a victory for Abbott would mean women’s voices would be stifled. She painted a picture of one man in a blue tie talking to another man in a blue tie about the budget, of a future in which “women once again [are] banished from the centre of Australia’s political life”.

Now her prediction has come to pass. It may turn out to be a very good thing to have a prime minister handling women’s issues himself, but one man’s voice, however powerful, is no substitution for many women’s voices. And when that man has a tendency towards chauvinist outbursts and saying things like “no one is the suppository of all wisdom”, the nation’s females could be forgiven for wishing that they had no spokesperson at all. Abbott has got rid of the science portfolio after all, so why not the women’s? (Because women are half of the population, half of the electorate and deserve to be represented as such).

There is much that is alarming about Abbott’s new regime – his promise to abolish the carbon tax and stop the boatloads of asylum seekers, his belief that climate change is “absolute crap”, his pledges to cut public service jobs and the foreign aid budget by billions. How tedious that sexism should have to be added to an already long list.

How much better if female voters like Bridget, Louise and Frances Abbott could just assume that their voices will be heard. They have voices, by the way, recently speaking out in support of same-sex marriage. Perhaps now their father can repay them for all those embarrassing photo opportunities by listening to what they have to say. Otherwise, the future for Australia’s women looks bleak indeed
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Petitioning The Hon. Tony Abbott

Prime Minister Tony Abbott: Appoint somebody qualified to be the Minister for Women

Petition by Matthew William Joyce, Australia, Filmmaker/ Magazine Editor/ Musician/ Cultural Humanist/ Hacktivist and member of the Pirate Party


Tony Abbott has appointed himself as the minister for women in Australia. This is clearly unacceptable as his views on Women Rights and equality will take us back 70-100 years.

From the Australian Independent Media Network on Tony Abbott's public comments on Women's Rights and Issues:

“I think it would be folly to expect that women will ever dominate or even approach equal representation in a large number of areas simply because their aptitudes, abilities and interests are different for physiological reasons.” Tony Abbott Four Corners 15/03/2010.

“While I think men and women are equal, they are also different and I think it’s inevitable and I don’t think it’s a bad thing at all that we always have, say, more women doing things like physiotherapy and an enormous number of women simply doing housework.” Tony Abbott Herald-Sun 06/08/2010.

“I won’t be rushing out to get my daughters vaccinated [for cervical cancer], maybe that’s because I’m a cruel, callow, callous, heartless bastard but, look, I won’t be.” November 9th, 2006

“I would say to my daughters if they were to ask me this question . . . [their virginity] is the greatest gift that you can give someone, the ultimate gift of giving and don’t give it to someone lightly, that’s what I would say.” January 27th “The problem with the Australian practice of abortion is that an objectively grave matter has been reduced to a question of the mother’s convenience.” 2010

It has been revealed that after having being defeated by Barbara Ramjan for the SRC presidency, Tony Abbott approached Barbara Ramjan, and after moving to within an inch of her nose, punched the wall on both sides of her head. news.com.au 09/09/2012

‘I think there does need to be give and take on both sides, and this idea that sex is kind of a woman’s right to absolutely withhold, just as the idea that sex is a man’s right to demand I think they are both they both need to be moderated, so to speak’ cited 23/08/2012

Gaining momentum across everywhere but the mainstream media are allegations that Opposition leader Tony Abbott inappropriately touched Aboriginal author Ali Cobby Eckerman in an Adelaide cafe last March. First Nations Telegraph 20/06/2013.

Tony Abbott urges women to save their virginity for marriage and reveals mixed feelings about contraception in a new interview. The Australian 25/01/2010.

And who can forget his behaviour: standing in front of people as they hold signs calling Julia Gillard a bitch or a slut; rubbing shoulders with people after they’ve said on air that Julia Gillard should be dumped at sea; supporting members of his party who suggested Julia Gillard should be kicked to death. He also failed to reprimand those in his party who said Julia Gillard needed a bullet.

He can’t even address a female by name; it’s either ‘her’, ‘she’, ‘it’ or someone with sex appeal.

Please help us appoint someone more qualified!

We want to do our best to make Tony Abbott see reason. As he is the only one who is able to appoint someone else as the Minister for Women's Issues. It should be someone with extensive experience in this area and willing to fight for Women's Rights. There is only one other woman in his cabinet which is an appalling fallout from the election. As someone who is supposed to be running the country he should at least appoint someone who will give this complex range of issues its due attention, at the very least to appoint someone who will not go backwards.
```````````

The Petition reads:

To: The Hon. Tony Abbott, Prime Minister of Australia
We the citizens of Australia call on you to demonstrate your commitment to women's rights and issues by appointing a minister for women who has the sole responsibility for the women’s portfolio.
Appointing yourself as Minister for Women is unacceptable, you espouse your support for women but by failing to appoint a minister for women who is solely responsible for the women’s portfolio combined with the lack of women in your cabinet clearly demonstrates your belief that women take a secondary role in your version of modern Australia.
We call on you to appoint a woman in the role of Minister for Women and to include more women in cabinet.
Sincerely,
[Your name]

 

Dianne Post: In Guatemala, women at the fore in seeking genocide justice & defending their land Print E-mail

Women in Resistance:  Seeking justice for genocide and defending our lands

By Dianne Post 6 September 2013

“Cuando se llega lo peor; cuando la situacion es tan deseperante y tan irrespirable que ni siquiera se puede pedir a los heroes que sean heroes; cuando toda Resistencia es un suicidio, entonces, justo entonces, en fin, en el filo de la aniquilación, son sobre todo las mujeres quienes dan un paso hacia adelante.” Rosa Montero – escritora Espanola

When it gets worse, when the situation is so desperate and so unbearable that you can’t ask the heroes to be heroes, when all resistance is suicide, then, just then, finally, on the edge of annihilation, are mostly women who take a step forward.
That certainly seems to be the situation in Guatemala today.  After a 36-year-long civil war that ended in 1996 with the signing of the Peace Accords, the country is experiencing a frightening slip back into militarization.  The U.S. backed war from 1960-1996 sought to eliminate the leftist insurgency through the military’s “scorched earth campaign” that ordered more than 626 massacres of Mayan villages across the country between 1978 and 1984. More than 200,000 people were killed or disappeared at the hands of the military and paramilitary forces. Not until 2010, when a woman prosecutor was appointed, Claudia Paz y Paz, did trials start for war crimes.  

But since January 2012, when Otto Perez Molina, a retired military officer and former Director of Military Intelligence, became President, violence has now reached levels higher than those during the country’s civil war and impunity continues to reign.  Violence against women in Guatemala has increased exponentially over the last several years, with a 339% increase between 2000 and 2008.  Women are often found tortured, mutilated, raped, and dismembered. Yet more strikingly, 98% of those cases remain unsolved.

Recent trends indicate the beginning of a return to violent rule by military and commercial interests. Attacks on human rights defenders, including prosecutors and journalists, have increased 681% from 2000 to 2011.  Only 2% were prosecuted.  The groups most attacked are indigenous people, especially those protecting the environment.  

Mining
When Yolanda Oqueli, a 43-year-old business woman with a husband and two children, heard that Kappess, Cassiday and Associates, a U.S. mining company, intended to open a gold mine on indigenous property, she and a few friends drove their cars to the entry and blocked it – eighteen months ago. An assassination attempt was made against Yolanda and she lives today with a bullet lodged near her spine.  The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) granted her precautionary measures and the government has to provide her with round-the-clock armed guards.  
 
After a monthly mass at the mining site, La Puya, we asked Yolanda why so many human rights leaders in Guatemala are women.  “People think our culture is machismo.  We think it’s machista,” she laughed.  

MISA DE LA PUYA – YOLANDA IS IN FRONT ROW ON LEFT

The K’iche’ People’s Council led by Lolita Chavez Ixcaquic, who also has precautionary measures because of an attempted assassination against her, represents eighty-seven Mayan communities in a very democratic process.  They have unanimously rejected mining and hydro-electric projects.  The companies offered to pay them a higher percent of profits, failing completely to understand that the reason for the rejection is not money but the refusal to allow destruction of the earth both for religious and survival reasons.  

Battered Women
Juana Baca Velasco, the leader of La Red De Mujeres Ixiles is also under precautionary measures because of threats. La Red has grown to a network of nine organizations and 352 women since 2006.  They run a battered women’s shelter that consists of mattresses thrown on the cement floor of a large meeting room in Nebaj. The women have a talk and information radio program on the Catholic station called “Peeling Potatoes”. They feel that women listen to other women when they are doing normal, household tasks i.e. peeling potatoes.

At another battered women’s shelter, Association of Women Generating Equality, Leadership and Opportunities, in Chimaltenango, the office was robbed in 2012, but the police have done nothing about it.  The director, Donessa Ortiz, told us that because of attacks, they have had to build a wall and install gates.  

DELEGATION WITH ASOGEN – DONESSA ORTIZ IS FRONT ROW STANDING, FAR RIGHT, OTHER EMPLOYEES ARE THE TWO IN FRONT ROW FAR LEFT, AND IN THE FRONT ROW MIDDLE WITH THE HORIZONTAL STRIPPED RED/WHITE/BLUE SWEATER

Genocide
The Center for Human Rights Legal Action (CALDH) was a co-prosecutor of General Efrain Rios Montt for genocide and crimes against humanity. The Montt trial was extremely important and received international attention because it was the first time that a military leader was prosecuted for war crimes in his own country by his own courts.   

Holding the book that contains all the trial testimony and the verdict.  

The prosecution had 101 witnesses, including forty forensic experts, and more than a dozen Mayan women who testified about systemic rape as a war crime.  The defense attorneys asked no questions of the women.  But when a military officer, testifying from hiding, mentioned the current president, Otto Perez Molina, as involved in the genocide, things came to a screeching halt.  The Constitutional Court intervened and ordered the trial stopped.  The five-judge panel hearing the case refused because the order was not only jurisdictionally incorrect, it was unlawful.  

After rendering a verdict of guilty and sentencing Montt to eighty years, the Constitutional Court invalidated the verdict. The chief judge, a woman, and two other judges who voted for guilt have since been granted precautionary measures by the IACHR because of threats against their lives.

CALDH and Movemiento de Victimas had worked in the Mayan communities and organized the testimony of genocide and rape survivors.  We were privileged to listen to the testimonies of five of the women. The women told us how their life had been before the military came, what it was like during the war, what happened to them and their families, how they felt today, how they felt about the trial of Montt, and whether testifying had been positive or negative.  

All of them had had what they called good lives before the military came.  All of them were chased further and further into the mountains by the military who burned their houses, killed their animals and destroyed their crops.  The first woman outlined the sixteen members of her family that were killed or died of starvation or privation in the mountains.  She was angry about her testimony now that Montt has returned home, a free man. The second woman lost three children but felt calmer after her testimony regardless of the legal reversal.  The third watched her two daughters starve in the mountains and remained bitter about the trial.  The fourth woman, a very tiny person probably half my size, watched the military burn two children alive inside a home.  She was captured twice and tortured but said her husband was dead and refused to give any information.  The last woman who spoke was captured, tortured and raped and then made to serve the military commander because she was so pretty.  She is still pretty today but her pain is written on the scars on her leg, the scars under her fingernails where they stuck needles, and the scars in her heart.  She, and some of the other woman, had never told their current husbands that they had been raped.  The husbands first learned of it by listening to testimony at the tribunal.  As in every culture, men do the raping but women bear the shame.

GENOCIDE SURVIVORS

At El Cotzel we talked to Juana Sanchez of the group Flor de Maguey, a group of widows from three towns. Ten of them testified in the Montt trial. Her husband was murdered, her mother tortured and herself captured.  The soldiers said they were to, “get rid of the trash in these towns” or  “you are (to be) taken out with the trash.”  The woman are getting too old to work the fields, if they have any, and want their reparations which they have never received.  Every woman we spoke to repeated the failure of justice theme.

Human Rights Organizations
Women also are the leaders in the human rights organizations. The National Union of Guatemalan Women was founded in 1980 but the founders were kidnapped, tortured and murdered and the members fled to Mexico during the war.  In 2010, they organized a Tribunal of Conscience that was a mock trial of the genocide against Mayan women.  Today, they are focusing on exposing the issue of sexual violence as a weapon of war, reparations and resistance to mining.

The Human Rights Defenders Unit, also run by a woman, investigates abuses, accompanies the victims, trains others and keeps statistics to educate and support legal cases.  They documented an increase in the number of women murdered from 213 in  2000 to a high of 720 in 2009.  Since then, the numbers have slightly decreased to 560 in 2012.   Unfortunately, it looks like the numbers might increase again in 2013.

A woman also heads Security in Democracy, a group that focuses on police and military reform.  While the constitution separates military and police, it allows for a procedure for them to patrol jointly with a judicial decree – which the current president requested.  Seeing soldiers patrolling their streets terrifies the Mayan population who were targeted by that same military for thirty-six years. 

On our last day, we had lunch at Casa Artesana, the first feminist cooperative founded in 2006 by Andrea Barrios and Sandra Moran.  They work with women in prison and re-entry and do art therapy.  Because of police harassment, they were forced to close the café to the public, install gates, locks and a security camera.  

The café was a good choice for our last stop.  While recognizing the pain and problems, Sandra Moran gave an impassioned presentation that we should not just remember the pain.  She said that the people’s strength in Guatemala is rising, they have the spirit, hope and strength to defend their land; people act on sadness but on joy too.  She emphasized that “we are not overcome, we are rising, especially young women”.

Your turn 
 I’m not sure that facing what they do, I could be so positive.  But as feminists, we know we can never stop.  What can you do?  You can sign up for email action alerts from GCHR (http://www.ghrc-usa.org). You can write to the mining company, Kappess, Cassiday and Associates, , and tell them to stop their efforts to build a mine on indigenous territory. A Canadian company, Hudbay Minerals, is being sued by Mayan Qeqchi plaintiffs for systematic rapes of women by their security guards that occurred near El Estor. Write them at If you are in the United States, you can tell our government not to give any military aid to Guatemala because it is using it to suppress the citizens.  Each of us can do one thing.  It means a lot.

                    # # #

Dianne Post is an attorney who has spent eighteen years working with battered women and children and fifteen working on international human rights.  She was a participant in August 2013 with a delegation for the Guatemala Commission for Human Rights (GCHR), a non-profit, grassroots, solidarity organization dedicated to promoting human rights.
India: Amidst Rape Pandemic, female empowerment a lost cause, and victim rehab of scant concern Print E-mail

 Wednesday September 4 2013

Rape victims ­ from anonymity to non-entity

By Vandana Shukla
A rape victim shares her woes with the media at Hisar, Haryana

While the judiciary is trying to bring about changes at the macro level to prosecute culprits in rape cases, victims are facing social ostracism at the village level ­ even schools shut doors on them

In the early 60s when contraceptives were introduced the world over, it was believed they will release women from the burden of biology ­ of the cyclical reproduction. In all developing societies, contraceptives improved women's participation in the mainstream economic activity. Their financial assets, body mass index, and their children's schooling and health improved. By and large all societies welcomed women’s empowerment because it raised the family's standard of living.

The rising graph of crimes against women in India, seems to undo it all. Women are dragged back to be a mere biological entity by rapists and molesters, who are not always the goons prowling around the dark, unsafe alleys and lanes for their prey, they also happen to be the ones who are supposed to offer a sense of security and support social growth of women ­ the policemen, teachers, neighbours, colleagues and even family members.

Thanks to these crimes, and the audacious ability of the culprits to evade punishment, the entire focus of women's issues is now limited to their safety, instead of their economic empowerment and better education and health care. Though, social research is not a strong point of the Indian academics, it would be interesting to know what happened to the index of women's development while the crime graph against them has been growing phenomenally? Are more women joining the work force, what has happened to the school drop out rate of young girls, are other parameters of their growth affected by these crimes? Both yes and no would offer interesting insights.


Protesting women at Jind, Haryana, after a Dalit girl’s alleged rape and murder in August.

Propagating victimhood
The underlying fact working behind the assault on the body of a woman is, an assault on the entire trajectory of women’s emancipation. Girls have been outshining boys in almost all school results. In metros and cities, when good- for- nothing young men watch empowered women walk past them in the fast lane of life with their enviable social position, the sexual assault becomes a way of avenging their own failure. These men had been made to believe by fading patriarchy that the jobs and positions, now usurped by women, were their birth right. By molesting or raping women, they are righting a wrong, teaching them a lesson for usurping what was theirs ­in their belief.

Therefore, the repercussion of a rape or molestation does not end at the so-called justice. Culprits are sent behind bars, if at all, the social trials of the victim begin with the reporting of the case. Not much has changed on this front, despite several reforms in the legal structure. Ruchika Girhotra was not alone. Lives of scores of girls are interrupted in more than one ways. The crime results in exactly what the rapists and molesters would want; sending women back to their safety zone, not venturing out into domains underlined by men as their rightful asset.

We have no data on the number of girls withdrawn from school or work after molestation or rape, in the absence of a well-coordinated rehabilitation plan between schools, hospitals and police stations. The mind-numbing numbers of rape cases still pending in the courts have put an unimaginable number of victims’lives in jeopardy. No one has a clue about what happens to the education of the young victims after the crime is reported. The social reality being what it is, which treats a victim of rape as a social outcast.

Need social reform
Young victims find themselves moving from well-meaning anonymity to be turned into nonentities at the behest of social ostracism. Schools shut doors on them, calling them bad influence for other children.

How do they pursue their journey to empowerment, if their education is stopped midway? Even in the absence of an official data, a few cases from Haryana offer a trend, which is, to say the least, is alarming.

In May this year, a 9th grade girl was raped by her teacher in Farain Kalan village of Jind district. The horror and humiliation of the rape apart, even though the law took its course ­ the accused teacher Rajinder Singh was terminated from service and was sent to jail on a charge of rape. But, the girl has not been able to resume her studies. An NGO involved in the case has been made to run between offices of the police, administration and the department of women and child development, but none is able to help the girl resume her education. As a result of humiliation of rape, the girl's younger sister too has been withdrawn from school, a 4th grade student. The minor's mother is a widow, and though the villagers had locked up the school demanding removal of the accused teacher, the same villagers are not forthcoming for thr rehabilitation of the girl.

More laws, less justice

More than the laws what the victims of rape need is; social empathy and acceptance. Even after the law has punished the guilty, the rape victim is continued to be treated as a culprit. This results in inadvertently justifying the rapist's motive ­ who succeeds in demoralising a young woman from her pursuit of empowerment.

In Nilokheri tehsil, a 16-year-old school going Dalit girl was gang-raped on August 6, 2012, her mother was murdered for lodging an FIR against the accused. In Haryana, it is common to see that the victim of rape is ostracised socially and forced to either leave the village or strike a compromise with the accused who are protected by the khap panchayats and the police, since both are controlled by the high castes. In cases after cases, even families of the victim get divided, close relatives pressurise the victim to respect the diktat and the might of the khaps. The victimised girl now wishes to pursue her education, but her village school has shunned her on strong caste lines.

Journeys cut short
A mere 13-year-old girl who was allegedly raped by a 60-year-old fruit vendor in Khai village of Fatehabad district for over four months, the girl and her two younger sisters were expelled from the government school hours after the rapist was arrested in Oct, 2012. The plea given by the school administration was; the girls will be subjected to taunts from other students. Before the culprit was arrested, the sarpanch of the village offered Rs 35,000 to the victim's father to hush up the case. It reflects the mind- set of people who are controlling different segments of society, and are supposed to play a supportive role for women's empowerment.

Social ostracism is a carry forward ­ from mother to children. In June 20, 2008, when a 34-yerar-old woman was gangraped in Samalkha village of Panipat, the family did not know how far the repercussions would reach. The couple, tired of the apathy of the system that refused to catch the culprits, threatened to commit suicide in front of the office of the then Rohtak Inspector General of Police, and did so. The victim died, but her husband survived, who was put behind bars under the law for murdering the victim. While the nightmares of the family do not seem to end, of the five accused, only one was arrested, the trial is still pending in a court in Panipat. The worst victims of this legal and social apathy are the children of the victim, whose only dream is to somehow go to a school, as they used to before their mother was raped. They are aged 12 and 11.

For whose benefit the law
If you recall the Bhanwri Devi gangrape case, 1992, which led to major amendments in the laws dealing with protection of women against sexual harassment at work place known as Vishakaha judgement, Bhanwari was a saathin, a grassroot worker employed by Women's Development Project. As an empowered saathin, Bhanwri, a dalit, resisted a child marriage organised by a Gujjar family. She was gangraped, the rape case became a gujjar versus kumhar caste battle at all levels of justice delivery system in Rajasthan. Her medical examination was conducted 52 hours after the rape, two years later the trial began in a lower court, five judges were inexplicably changed, the sixth found the accused not guilty in 1995. At the police station, Bhanwari was asked to deposit her lehanga (long skirt) as evidence. She had to cover herself with her husband's blood-stained saafa (turban) and walk 3 km. to the nearest saathin's village, at about 1 am in the morning. Bhanwri was alienated, despite amendments in the law, her honour was not restored. Her humiliation was a lesson for other women's pursuit of emancipation.

That was in 1992. In the Nilokheri tehsil case mentioned above, the police had asked the minor Dalit girl, the victim, to wash her clothes which resulted in loss of evidence. This was 2012, after several legal amendments. In the Panipat woman gangrape case, the police was found guilty of keeping the suicide note and dumping the forensic examination report in the police station's malkhana ( store) for over two years. They did not put the suicide note in the trial of her husband, which led to his imprisonment and loss of the trial for rape of his wife.

Almost everyday a major court verdict brings a case of sexual crime against women into limelight. At the macro level, changes are taking place. Their implementation requires a lot of groundwork at the local police thana level, where the cases are registered and charges framed. Here, at this level, not the law but all other social factors come into play ­ from caste hierarchy to political positioning of the caste to patriarchal values. Here, a woman being raped is seen as a man's, or, his caste's authority being challenged. The woman is inconsequential in this parlance. Hence, her rehabilitation too is of little consequence. And her empowerment is best forgotten.

Justice in a vacuum

  • In 24 High Courts, posts of 275 judges are vacant
  • ALLAHABAD HC : Rape cases pending ­ 8,200 ; vacancies of judges ­ 68
  • MP HC : Rape cases pending ­ 3,800 ; vacancies of judges ­ 10
  • PUNJAB & HARYANA HC : Rape cases pending ­ 2,700 ; vacancies of judges ­ 21
  • CHHATTISGARH HC : Rape cases pending ­ 1,500 ; vacancies of judges ­ 8

 

Pakistan: Planned extrajudicial killings included bravest of human rights hero Asma Jahangir Print E-mail

 Wednesday September 4 2013

Pakistani intelligence plotted to kill Asma Jahangir in India: Post

IANS:
 Washington: Pakistani military and intelligence leaders orchestrating a wave of extrajudicial killings of terrorism suspects for years even plotted to "eliminate" prominent human rights activist Asma Jahangir during a visit to India, the Washington Post reported [scroll down to read] citing secret documents.

Classified documents given to the Post by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden reveal that "US spy agencies for years reported that senior Pakistani military and intelligence leaders were orchestrating a wave of  extrajudicial killings of terrorism suspects and other militants".

Other US intelligence documents indicate that Pakistani officials weren't  targeting just suspected insurgents, the daily said.

"In May 2012, US intelligence agencies discovered evidence of Pakistani  officers plotting to 'eliminate' a prominent human rights activist, Asma Jahangir," the Post said citing the summary of a top secret Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) report.

The DIA report did not identify which officers were plotting to kill Jahangir, who had been a leading critic of the ISI for years, the Post said.

But it said the plan "included either tasking militants to kill her in India or tasking militants or criminals to kill her in Pakistan".

The US agency said it did not know whether the ISI had given approval for  the plot to proceed.

Although the report speculated that the ISI was motivated to kill Jahangir, "to quiet public criticism of the military", the DIA, according to the Post, noted that such a plot "would result in international and domestic backlash as ISI is already under significant criticism for intimidation and extra-judicial killings".

"News of the alleged plot became public a few weeks later when Jahangir gave  a round of interviews to journalists, revealing that she had learned that Pakistani intelligence officials had marked her for death. The plot was never carried out," the Post said.
~~~~~~~~~~
 Tuesday September 3 2013

Top-secret U.S. intelligence files show new levels of distrust of Pakistan

Pakistani security guards stand alert outside the U.S. consulate in Lahore on Aug. 12, 2013. The U.S. intelligence community’s “black budget” shows that the United States has ramped up its surveillance of Pakistan’s nuclear arms. (ARIF ALI/AFP/Getty Images)

By Greg Miller, Craig Whitlock and Barton Gellman

The $52.6 billion U.S. intelligence arsenal is aimed mainly at unambiguous adversaries, including al-Qaeda, North Korea and Iran. But top-secret budget documents reveal an equally intense focus on one purported ally: Pakistan.

No other nation draws as much scrutiny across so many categories of national security concern.

A 178-page summary of the U.S. intelligence community’s “ black budget” shows that the United States has ramped up its surveillance of Pakistan’s nuclear arms, cites previously undisclosed concerns about biological and chemical sites there, and details efforts to assess the loyalties of counter­terrorism sources recruited by the CIA.

Pakistan appears at the top of charts listing critical U.S. intelligence gaps. It is named as a target of newly formed analytic cells. And fears about the security of its nuclear program are so pervasive that a budget section on containing the spread of illicit weapons divides the world into two categories: Pakistan and everybody else.

The disclosures ­ based on documents provided to The Washington Post by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden ­ expose broad new levels of U.S. distrust in an already unsteady security partnership with Pakistan, a politically unstable country that faces rising Islamist militancy. They also reveal a more expansive effort to gather intelligence on Pakistan than U.S. officials have disclosed.

The United States has delivered nearly $26 billion in aid to Pakistan over the past 12 years, aimed at stabilizing the country and ensuring its cooperation in counterterrorism efforts. But with Osama bin Laden dead and al-Qaeda degraded, U.S. spy agencies appear to be shifting their attention to dangers that have emerged beyond the patch of Pakistani territory patrolled by CIA drones.

“If the Americans are expanding their surveillance capabilities, it can only mean one thing,” said Husain Haqqani, who until 2011 served as Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States. “The mistrust now exceeds the trust.”

Beyond the budget files, other classified documents provided to The Post expose fresh allegations of systemic human rights abuses in Pakistan. U.S. spy agencies reported that high-ranking Pakistani military and intelligence officials had been aware of ­ and possibly ordered ­ an extensive campaign of extrajudicial killings targeting militants and other adversaries.

Public disclosure of those reports, based on communications intercepts from 2010 to 2012 and other intelligence, could have forced the Obama administration to sever aid to the Pakistani armed forces because of a U.S. law that prohibits military assistance to human rights abusers. But the documents indicate that administration officials decided not to press the issue, in order to preserve an already frayed relationship with the Pakistanis.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council said the United States is “committed to a long-term partnership with Pakistan, and we remain fully engaged in building a relationship that is based on mutual interests and mutual respect.”


“We have an ongoing strategic dialogue that addresses in a realistic fashion many of the key issues between us, from border management to counterterrorism, from nuclear security to promoting trade and investment,” said the spokeswoman, Caitlin Hayden. “The United States and Pakistan share a strategic interest in combating the challenging security issues in Pakistan, and we continue to work closely with Pakistan’s professional and dedicated security forces to do so.”

The Post agreed to withhold some details from the budget documents after consultations with U.S. officials, who expressed concern about jeopardizing ongoing operations and sources.

A spokesman for the Pakistani Embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment.

Critical ‘intelligence gaps’
Stark assessments of Pakistan contained in the budget files seem at odds with the signals that U.S. officials have conveyed in public, partly to avoid fanning Pakistani suspicions that the United States is laying contingency plans to swoop in and seize control of the country’s nuclear complex.

When Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. was asked during congressional testimony last year whether Pakistan had appropriate safeguards for its nuclear program, he replied, “I’m reasonably confident they do.” Facing a similar question this year, Clapper declined to discuss the matter in open session.

But the classified budget overview he signed and submitted for fiscal 2013 warned that “knowledge of the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and associated material encompassed one of the most critical set of . . . intelligence gaps.” Those blind spots were especially worrisome, the document said, “given the political instability, terrorist threat and expanding inventory [of nuclear weapons] in that country.”

The budget documents do not break down expenditures by country or estimate how much the U.S. government spends to spy on Pakistan. But the nation is at the center of two categories ­ counterterrorism and counter-proliferation ­ that dominate the black budget.

In their proposal for fiscal 2013, which ends Sept. 30, U.S. spy agencies sought $16.6 billion to fight al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups and asked for $6.86 billion to counter the spread of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. Together, the two categories accounted for nearly half of the U.S. intelligence community’s budget request for this year.

Detailed spreadsheets contain dozens of line items that correspond to operations in Pakistan. The CIA, for example, was scheduled to spend $2.6 billion on “covert action” programs around the world. Among the most expensive, according to current and former U.S. intelligence officials, is the armed drone campaign against al-Qaeda fighters and other militants in Pakistan’s tribal belt.

U.S. intelligence analysts “produced hundreds of detailed and timely reports on shipments and pending deliveries of suspect cargoes” to Pakistan, Syria and Iran. Multiple U.S. agencies exploited the massive American security presence in Afghanistan ­ including a string of CIA bases and National Security Agency listening posts along the border mainly focused on militants ­ for broader intelligence on Pakistan.

The pace of CIA drone strikes has plunged, and two years have passed since U.S. leaders infuriated Islamabad by ordering the secret raid inside Pakistani territory that killed bin Laden.

Although Pakistani anger has abated, Haqqani said the fallout from the raid had broader consequences than widely understood.

“The discovery of bin Laden [in Pakistan] made the Americans think that the Pakistani state’s ability to know what happens within the country is a lot less than had been assumed,” said Haqqani, who is an international-relations professor at Boston University.

That realization may have ratcheted up a long-standing source of concern: Pakistan’s ability to safeguard its nuclear materials and components.

U.S. intelligence agencies are focused on two particularly worrisome scenarios: the possibility that Pakistan’s nuclear facilities might come under attack by Islamist militants, as its army headquarters in Rawalpindi did in 2009, and even greater concern that Islamist militants might have penetrated the ranks of Pakistan’s military or intelligence services, putting them in a position to launch an insider attack or smuggle out nuclear material.

Pakistan has dozens of laboratories and production and storage sites scattered across the country. After developing warheads with highly enriched uranium, it has more recently tried to do the same with more-powerful and compact plutonium. The country is estimated to have as many as 120 nuclear weapons, and the budget documents indicate that U.S. intelligence agencies suspect that Pakistan is adding to that stockpile.

Little is known about how it moves materials among its facilities, an area that experts have cited as a potential vulnerability.

“Nobody knows how they truly do it,” said Feroz Khan, a retired Pakistani military officer and director of arms control who lectures at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif. “Vehicles move in a stealthy manner and move with security. But it’s not clear whether the cores are moved to the warheads or the warheads are moved to the core locations.”

Concerns persist that extremists could seize components of the stockpile or trigger a war with neighboring India. Pakistan also has a track record of exporting nuclear technology to countries that are on Washington’s blacklist.

Pakistan has accepted some security training from the CIA, but U.S. export restrictions and Pakistani suspicions have prevented the two countries from sharing the most sophisticated technology for safeguarding nuclear components.

U.S. anxiety over Pakistan’s nuclear program appears to be driven more by uncertainty about how it is run than specific intelligence indicating that its systems are vulnerable, according to the budget documents.

A lengthy section on counter-proliferation starts with a single goal: “Make Quantitative and Qualitative Progress against Pakistan Nuclear Gaps.” A table indicates that U.S. spy agencies have identified at least six areas in which their understanding of Pakistan’s weapons programs is deficient.

U.S. agencies reported gaining valuable information through “extensive efforts to increase understanding of the transfer and storage of the associated materials.”

The budget describes the creation of a Pakistan WMD Analysis Cell to track movements of nuclear materials. Agencies, including the CIA and the Defense Department, were able “to develop and deploy a new compartmented collection capability” that delivered a “more comprehensive understanding of strategic weapons security in Pakistan.”

Even so, “the number of gaps associated with Pakistani nuclear security remains the same,” the document said, and “the questions associated with this intractable target are more complex.”

The budget documents indicate that U.S. intelligence agencies are also focused on the security of the nuclear program in India, ­Pakistan’s arch-rival.

Other fields under scrutiny
U.S. surveillance of Pakistan extends far beyond its nuclear program. There are several references in the black budget to expanding U.S. scrutiny of chemical and biological laboratories. The country is not thought to be running a rogue chemical or biological weapons program, but U.S. intelligence officials fear that Islamists could seize materials from government-­run laboratories.

Even American interdiction operations targeting other countries have stumbled into connections with Pakistan. In one case, a U.S. effort to block an Iranian shipment through a Turkish port “proved to be even more successful when aluminum powder destined for Pakistan was also discovered and detained,” according to the documents. Aluminum powder can be used to increase the power of explosives.

The budget documents don’t disclose CIA payments to its Pakistani counterpart, the Inter-
Services Intelligence directorate, or ISI, which former officials said has totaled tens of millions of dollars. The documents do show that the CIA has developed sophisticated means of assessing the loyalties of informants who have helped the agency find al-Qaeda leaders in Pakistan’s tribal region.

Those measures, which The Post has agreed not to disclose, have allowed the CIA to “gain confidence in each asset’s authenticity, reliability and freedom from hostile control.”

Extrajudicial killings
Other classified documents given to The Post by Snowden reveal that U.S. spy agencies for years reported that senior Pakistani military and intelligence leaders were orchestrating a wave of extrajudicial killings of terrorism suspects and other militants.

In July 2011, an assessment of communications intercepts and other intelligence by the NSA concluded that the Pakistani military and intelligence services had continued over the preceding 16 months a pattern of lethally targeting perceived enemies without trial or due process. The killings, according to the NSA, occurred “with the knowledge, if not consent, of senior officers.”

The NSA cited two senior Pakistani officials who “apparently ordered some of the killings or were at least aware of them,” read a summary of the top-secret NSA report, titled “Pakistan/Human Rights: Extrajudicial Killings Conducted With Consent of Senior Intelligence Officials.”

The report summary did not provide an estimate of how many people had been killed or their identities. But it generally described the targets as people whom the Pakistani security forces viewed as “undeniably linked to terrorist activity” or responsible for attacks on Pakistan’s armed forces.

The killings “seemed to serve the purpose of dispensing what the military considered swift justice,” the intelligence assessment stated. Pakistani authorities “were conscious of not arousing suspicions. The number of victims at a given time tended to be very small. Furthermore, the military took care to make the deaths seem to occur in the course of counterinsurgency operations, from natural causes, or as the result of personal vendettas.”

Although Pakistan has been engaged for years in open warfare with Taliban factions and other domestic insurgents, the NSA placed the extrajudicial killings in a much darker category. Pakistani police forces “were reluctant to carry out the killings,” the report said.

The NSA compiled its report shortly after the public exposure of other alleged Pakistani atrocities.

In June 2010, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan charged that Pakistani forces had carried out more than 280 summary executions during an offensive against Taliban fighters and other militants, mostly in the Swat Valley. Five months later, a video surfaced on the Internet showing Pakistani soldiers executing six blindfolded men with their hands tied behind their backs.

An international outcry over the latter incident prompted the Obama administration to withhold aid ­ but only to a handful of low-level Pakistani army units thought to have been involved in such incidents.

At the time, Pakistani officials dismissed the video and other reports of summary executions as Taliban propaganda, but they later reversed course and launched an internal investigation. Pakistan’s military leaders insisted publicly that they had zero tolerance for such incidents.

Human rights abuses
It was not the first time that U.S. officials sought to keep evidence of Pakistani human rights abuses out of the public eye.

A classified diplomatic cable, sent from the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad to officials in Washington in September 2009, also raised concern about the extrajudicial killings of militants by Pakistani army units. But the cable ­ originally released in 2010 by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks ­ advised against public disclosure of the incidents, saying it was more important to maintain support for the Pakistani armed forces.

U.S. intelligence officials have kept quiet about other signs of human rights abuses by the Pakistani military, even though their classified reporting on the subject underscores persistent concerns.

In September 2011, the summary of a top-secret report from a Defense Intelligence Agency task force cited the “systemic practice” of unlawful killings by Pakistani security forces in the tribal regions of western Pakistan.

Pakistan had recently passed a law allowing the military to detain insurgents indefinitely and make it easier to convict them in civilian courts. But the DIA concluded that because extrajudicial killings were “condoned by senior officials” in Pakistan’s security establishment, the new law was unlikely to significantly reduce the number of deaths.

Other U.S. intelligence documents indicate that Pakistani officials weren’t targeting just suspected insurgents.

In May 2012, U.S. intelligence agencies discovered evidence of Pakistani officers plotting to “eliminate” a prominent human rights activist, Asma Jahangir, according to the summary of a top-secret DIA report. Jahangir had been a leading public critic of the ISI for years.

The DIA report did not identify which officers were plotting to kill Jahangir, but it said the plan “included either tasking militants to kill her in India or tasking militants or criminals to kill her in Pakistan.”

The U.S. agency said it did not know whether the ISI had given approval for the plot to proceed. Although the report speculated that the ISI was motivated to kill Jahangir “to quiet public criticism of the military,” the DIA noted that such a plot “would result in international and domestic backlash as ISI is already under significant criticism for intimidation and extra-­judicial killings.”

News of the alleged plot became public a few weeks later when Jahangir gave a round of interviews to journalists, revealing that she had learned that Pakistani intelligence officials had marked her for death. The plot was never carried out.


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