Recent Resources for Feminists
China: One-child policy a scourge against the poor, women, female foetuses & the girl child Print E-mail

 The public outrage voiced against Zhang during the last week plays into the Party’s hands. Instead of attacking the government’s barbaric policy, the people are being encouraged to criticise the rich for escaping its claws.


 Tuesday May 28 2013

China's one-child policy among worst crimes against humanity

By Ma Jian, NYT :

Zhang Yimou, the celebrated film director and arranger of the 2008 Summer Olympics’ opening ceremony in Beijing, was accused last week of being the latest high-profile violator of China’s one-child policy. The People’s Daily, the Communist Party mouthpiece, alleged that Zhang had fathered seven children with four different women.

The news has ignited an angry online debate, with Internet users condemning the unequal application of a 1979 law that stipulates every couple may have just one child (or two for ethnic minorities and for rural couples whose first child is a girl). The truth is: for the rich, the law is a paper tiger, easily circumvented by paying a “social compensation fee” — a fine of 3 to 10 times a household’s annual income, set by each province’s family planning bureau, or by travelling to Hong Kong, Singapore or even America to give birth.

For the poor, however, the policy is a flesh-and-blood tiger with claws and fangs. In the countryside, where the need for extra hands to help in the fields and the deeply entrenched patriarchal desire for a male heir have created strong resistance to population control measures, the tiger has been merciless. Village family-planning officers vigilantly chart the menstrual cycle and pelvic-exam results of every woman of childbearing age in their area. If a woman gets pregnant without permission and is unable to pay the often exorbitant fine for violating the policy, she risks being subjected to a forced abortion.

According to Chinese Health Ministry data released in March, 336 million abortions and 222 million sterilisations have been carried out since 1971. (Though the one-child policy was introduced in 1979, other, less-stringent family planning policies were in place before it.)

These figures are easy to quote, but they fail to convey the magnitude of the horror faced by rural Chinese women. During a long journey through the hinterlands of southwest China in 2009, I was able to find some of the faces behind these numbers.

On ramshackle barges moored on the remote waterways of Hubei and Guangxi, I met hundreds of “family-planning fugitives” — couples who’d fled their villages to give birth to an unauthorised second or third child in neighbouring provinces.

Mandatory abortion
Almost every one of the pregnant women I spoke to had suffered a mandatory abortion. One woman told me how, when she was eight months pregnant with an illegal second child and was unable to pay the 20,000 yuan fine (about $3,200), family planning officers dragged her to the local clinic, bound her to a surgical table and injected a lethal drug into her abdomen.

For two days she writhed on the table, her hands and feet still bound with rope, waiting for her body to eject the murdered baby. In the final stage of labour, a male doctor yanked the dead foetus out by the foot, then dropped it into a garbage can. She had no money for a cab. She had to hobble home, blood dripping down her legs and staining her white sandals red.

It is not surprising that China has the highest rate of female suicide in the world. The one-child policy has reduced women to numbers, objects, a means of production; it has denied them control of their bodies and the basic human right to determine freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children.

Baby girls are also victims of the policy. Under family pressure to ensure that their only child is a son, women often choose to abort baby girls or discard them at birth, practices that have skewed China’s sex ratio to 118 boys for every 100 girls.

The Communist Party argues that the means justify the ends. When Deng Xiaoping and his fellow economic reformers introduced the one-child policy as a “temporary” measure in 1979, after Mao’s death and the end of the calamitous Cultural Revolution, they claimed that without the one-child policy, the economy would falter and the population would explode.

Thirty-four years on, despite mounting criticism, the Party still clings to it. But their argument is based on shoddy science: the birthrate, already falling before the policy was introduced, is now officially 1.8, or nearer 1.2 according to independent demographic experts like Yi Fuxian — much lower than the necessary 2.1 population replacement level. Yi and others have warned of China’s impending demographic disaster: a rapidly aging nation that a dwindling work force will be unable to support.

Rising incomes and urbanisation generally lead to falling birthrates. If the one-child policy were scrapped tomorrow, most Chinese wouldn’t rush to produce as many offspring as Zhang Yimou. And despite recent signals that the Party might be considering gradually relaxing birth restrictions, there is still considerable resistance.

Stubborn hard-liners will not willingly abandon population control measures that have provided the government with an estimated two trillion yuan in revenue from fines, according to the demographer He Yafu, while allowing it to maintain firm control over people’s lives.

The public outrage voiced against Zhang during the last week plays into the Party’s hands. Instead of attacking the government’s barbaric policy, the people are being encouraged to criticise the rich for escaping its claws.

Ending this scourge is a moral imperative. The atrocities committed in the name of the one-child policy over the last three decades rank among the worst crimes against humanity of the last century. The stains it has left on China may never be erased.

US: More to Angelina Jolie’s prophylactic bilateral mastectomy than meets the eye ….. Print E-mail

Rather than a victory for Women’s Heath, the big winner promoted by Ms. Joilie is Myriad Genetics, but read on … especially re the final article linking breast cancer with cleaning products and air fresheners, which unlike the whitewashing of bilateral surgical mutilation, barely raised the slightest response from the mainstream media, nor from the medical science community.

 Thursday, May 16, 2013

EXPOSED: Angelina Jolie part of a clever corporate scheme to protect billions in BRCA gene patents, influence Supreme Court decision (opinion)

by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger/Editor of

Angelina Jolie's announcement of undergoing a double mastectomy (surgically removing both breasts) even though she had no breast cancer is not the innocent, spontaneous, "heroic choice" that has been portrayed in the mainstream media. Natural News has learned it all coincides with a well-timed for-profit corporate P.R. campaign that has been planned for months and just happens to coincide with the upcoming U.S. Supreme Court decision on the viability of the BRCA1 patent.

This is the investigation the mainstream media refuses to touch. Here, I explain the corporate financial ties, investors, mergers, human gene patents, lawsuits, medical fear mongering and the trillions of dollars that are at stake here. If you pull back the curtain on this one, you find far more than an innocent looking woman exercising a "choice." This is about protecting trillions in profits through the deployment of carefully-crafted public relations campaigns designed to manipulate the public opinion of women.

The signs were all there from the beginning of the scheme: Angelina Jolie's highly polished and obviously corporate-written op-ed piece at the New York Times, the carefully-crafted talking points invoking "choice" as a politically-charged keyword, and the obvious coaching of even her husband Brad Pitt who carefully describes the entire experience using words like "stronger" and "pride" and "family."

But the smoking gun is the fact that Angelina Jolie's seemingly spontaneous announcement magically appeared on the cover of People Magazine this week -- a magazine that is usually finalized for publication three weeks before it appears on newsstands. That cover, not surprisingly, uses the same language found in the NYT op-ed piece: "HER BRAVE CHOICE" and "This was the right thing to do." The flowery, pro-choice language is not a coincidence.

What this proves is that Angelina's Jolie's announcement was a well-planned corporate P.R. campaign with carefully-crafted messages designed to influence public opinion. But what could Jolie be seeking to influence? about trillions of dollars in corporate profits?

Upcoming U.S. Supreme Court decision to rule on patent viability for BRCA1 gene
Angelina Jolie's announcement and all its carefully-crafted language had four notable immediate impacts:

1) It caused women everywhere to be terrified of breast cancer through the publishing of false statistics that drove fear into the hearts of anyone with breasts. (See below for explanation.)

2) It caused women to rush out and seek BRCA1 gene testing procedures. These tests just happen to be patented by a for-profit corporation called "Myriad Genetics." Because of this patent, BRCA1 tests can cost $3,000 - $4,000 each. The testing alone is a multi-billion-dollar market, but only if the patent is upheld in an upcoming Supreme Court decision (see below).

3) It caused the stock price of Myriad Genetics (MYGN) to skyrocket to a 52-week high. "Myriad's stock closed up 3% Tuesday, following the publication of the New York Times op-ed," wrote

4) It drove public opinion to influence the upcoming U.S. Supreme Court decision to rule in favor of corporate ownership of human genes (see more below).

Women all over the world are being duped into supporting Angeline Jolie, having no idea that what she's really doing is selling out women to the for-profit cancer industry. But to fully understand what's happening, you have to dig deeper...

Myriad Genetics sees stock price skyrocket thanks to Jolie, and Obamacare will funnel billions their way
"Salt Lake City-based Myriad Genetics (MYGN) holds the patent on the test that determined the actress had an 87% chance of developing breast cancer, as well as the genes themselves," wrote

And that's only the beginning. If the U.S. Supreme Court can be influenced to uphold Myriad's patent, it could mean a trillion-dollar industry over just the next few years. Even more, Myriad Genetics is reportedly "ripe for mergers" according to the financial press, because it's part of the super-hot human genome industry.

"The world's largest maker of DNA testing and analysis tools, Life Technologies Corp. said that it is set to be acquired by Thermo Fisher Scientific for a record $13.6 billion," writes "A race that kicked into high gear more than 26 years ago is heating up, with foreign governments and corporations joining the U.S. in funding the quest to map all the human genomes. And even as the recent flurry of mergers and acquisitions in the genomics space has spurred returns, investors still have opportunities to profit from this multibillion-dollar industry."

The higher Myriad's stock price goes, the more profitable a merger becomes for its current owners. So Jolie's P.R. stunt just happened to generate unknown millions of dollars in value for the very people who claim a patent monopoly over the breast cancer genes residing in the bodies of women. Coincidence? Hardly.

Obamacare mandates taxpayers pay for BRCA gene testing: yet another government handout to wealthy corporations

But here's what's even more crooked about all this: You know how Obama likes to talk "free market" but actually engages in so-called "crony capitalism" by handing out money to all his corporate buddies, Wall Street insiders and deep-pocketed campaign donors? Part of Obamacare -- the "Affordable Care Act" -- mandates that taxpayers pay for BRCA1 genetic testing!

Myriad Genetics, in other words, stands to receive a full-scale windfall of profits mandated by government and pushed into mainstream consciousness through a campaign of "medical terror" fronted by Angelina Jolie and the New York Times. Are you starting to see how this all fits together yet?

This is all one big coordinated corporate sellout of women, and it's all being hidden by playing the "women's power" card and using "choice" language to more easily manipulate women. Angelina Jolie, remember, is a key spokesperson for the United Nations, an organization already caught engaged in child sex slavery and drug running. Although Jolie obviously isn't engage in that sort of behavior, her job is to covertly influence American women into supporting a carefully-planned, plotted and executed corporate profit campaign that turns women's bodies into profits.

Here's why the Supreme Court decision puts trillions of dollars at stake...

Details on the upcoming Supreme Court decision

The ACLU and the Public Patent Foundation filed a lawsuit in 2009, challenging the corporate ownership of human genes. Anyone who believes in women's rights, human rights, civil rights or even the right to eat non-GMO foods should immediately agree that corporations should NOT be able to patent human genes and then use those patents to rake in billions of dollars in profits while stifling scientific research into those genes.

A question to all women reading this: Do you believe a corporation in Utah owns your body? If not, you should be opposed to corporate ownership of human genes. It also means you should oppose Angelina Jolie's P.R. campaign because although she's running a brilliant public relations campaign, behind the scenes her actions are feeding potentially trillions of dollars of profits directly into the for-profit human gene patenting industry that denies human beings ownership over their own genetic code.

The ACLU explains the basics of its lawsuit against Myriad Genetics as follows:

On May 12, 2009, the ACLU and the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) filed a lawsuit charging that patents on two human genes associated with breast and ovarian cancer, BRCA1 and BRCA2, are unconstitutional and invalid. On November 30, 2012, the Supreme Court agreed to hear argument on the patentability of human genes. The ACLU argued the case before the U.S. Supreme Court on April 15, 2013. We expect a decision this summer.

On behalf of researchers, genetic counselors, women patients, cancer survivors, breast cancer and women's health groups, and scientific associations representing 150,000 geneticists, pathologists, and laboratory professionals, we have argued that human genes cannot be patented because they are classic products of nature. The suit charges that the gene patents violate the First Amendment and stifle diagnostic testing and research that could lead to cures and that they limit women's options regarding their medical care.

Got that? If the Supreme Court rules against Myriad Genetics, it will cause a multi-billion-dollar breast cancer genetic testing industry to collapse virtually overnight. This means a huge loss for not just Myriad, but also many other human gene corporations that wish to exploit the human body -- including the bodies of women -- for monopolistic profits. (All patents are government-granted monopolies.) Ultimately, trillions of dollars in corporate gene patents are at stake here.

Patenting human genes is huge business

Today, about 20 percent of your genes are already patented by corporations and universities. As the ACLU explains, "A gene patent holder has the right to prevent anyone from studying, testing or even looking at a gene. As a result, scientific research and genetic testing has been delayed, limited or even shut down due to concerns about gene patents."

This means that when corporations own patents on human genes, it stifles scientific research while granting that corporation a monopoly over the "intellectual property" encoded in your own DNA! (How criminal is that? You decide...)

What this means is that if the Supreme Court rules against Myriad, it would set a precedent that would dismantle the entire human gene patenting industry, affecting trillions of dollars in future profits.

This, I believe, is the real reason behind Angelina Jolie's announcement. It seems designed to invoke women's emotional reactions and create a groundswell of support for corporate-owned genes, thereby handing these corporations a Supreme Court precedent that will ensure trillions in future profits. It's a for-profit PR stunt that tries to trick women into supporting a corporate system of patents and monopolies that claims, right now, to own portions of the bodies of every woman living today.

While most media outlets have no clue about the patent issues at stake here, the Detroit Free Press took notice, saying:

"The Hollywood star's decision to get tested for a breast cancer gene mutation, undergo a double mastectomy and then write about it calls attention to a case now pending before the court. The justices have just weeks to decide if Myriad Genetics' patent on the two genes that can identify an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer is legal. Critics complain that the company's monopoly leaves them as the sole source of the $4,000 tests needed to determine each woman's risk."

Lying with statistics: Jolie's 87% risk exaggeration
There's more to this story than just the patents on BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. Angelina Jolie is also using blatantly misleading statistics to terrify women into thinking their breasts might kill them.

In the NYT op-ed piece, Jolie claims her doctor told her she has an "87% risk" of developing breast cancer. But what she didn't tell you is that this number doesn't apply to the entire population: it's actually old data derived almost exclusively from families that were previously documented to have very high risks of breast cancer to begin with.

A study published on the National Human Genome Research Institute website and conducted by scientists from the National Institutes of Health reveals that breast cancer risks associated with BRCA1 genes are significantly lower than what's being hyped up by Jolie and the mainstream media.

In fact, in a large room of 600 women, only ONE will likely have a BRCA mutation in her genetic code. The actual incidence is 0.125 to 0.25 out of 100 women, or 1 in 400 to 1 in 800. I used 600 as the average of 400 and 800.

And out of that 1 in 600 women who has the mutation, her risk of breast cancer is only 56 percent, not 78 percent as claimed by Jolie. But 13 percent of women without the BRCA mutation get breast cancer anyway, according to this scientific research, so the increased risk is just 43 out of 100 women.

So what we're really talking about here is 1 in 600 women having a BRCA gene mutation, then less than half of those getting cancer because of it. In other words, only about 1 in 1200 women will be affected by this.

Yet thanks to people like Jolie and the fear-mongering mainstream media, women all across the nation have been terrified into believing their breasts might kill them and the best way to handle the problem is to cut them off!

This, my friends, is the essence of doomsday fear mongering. This issue affects less than one-tenth of one percent of women but is being riled up into a nationwide fear campaign that just happens to feed profits into the for-profit cancer diagnosis and treatment industry, not to mention the monopolistic human gene patenting cartels.

That's the real story of what's happening here. Don't expect to read this in the New York Times.

Corporate media refuses to mention real prevention and treatment options
As part of the breast cancer fear mongering and treatment scam now being run across the mainstream media, nearly all media sources are prohibiting any mention of holistic or natural options for treatment or prevention.

Sure, the media talks about "options," but all those options just happen to lead back to the for-profit cancer industry. As an example, read this story by ABC News, part of the lying mainstream media that misinforms women and pushes a corporate agenda:

If you do test positive for BRCA, you have options, and you don't necessarily have to go the Jolie route. Some women choose not to have surgery. Instead, they increase cancer surveillance with imaging tests. These include regular mammograms to test for breast cancer, and regular pelvic sonograms and blood-tests to watch for ovarian cancer.

Nowhere in this article does ABC News mention ways to suppress the BRCA1 gene by, for example, eating raw cruciferous vegetables containing Indole-3-Carbinol (I3C), a potent anti-cancer nutrient that halts breast cancer in its tracks. Nowhere does ABC News mention vitamin D which prevents nearly 4 out of 5 cancers of all types, including breast cancer.

Nope, the "options" being pushed by mainstream media are nothing more than mammograms, surgery, radiation and chemotherapy -- all owned and run by the for-profit cancer industry that feeds on women and exploits their bodies for profit.

Nor is their any discussion of the total scam of the "pink ribbons" cancer cure industry which is primarily focused on giving women cancer through "free mammograms." As any scientist or physicist already knows, mammograms cause cancer because they emit ionizing radiation directly into the breast and heart tissues. Get enough mammograms done and sooner or later they will detect breast cancer because they caused it! To date, 1.3 million women have been harmed by mammography.

Thanks, Angelina, for keeping the wool pulled over the eyes of women everywhere while selling out to for-profit, monopolistic, corporate interests that incessantly seek to exploit women for profit.

Photo credit: PEOPLE Magazine cover, used under Fair Use for public commentary and education.

 USA ~ May 16, 2013

Cashing In On Breast Cancer Awareness

In the wake of Angelina Jolie’s well-intentioned exhortation for “every woman” to explore their risk of breast cancer, one company stands to make a staggering profit.

By Rose-Ellen Less
Many American women played the BRCA what-if game for the first time on Tuesday: what would I do if I had the mutation? Would I get a mastectomy, even though there was a chance I wouldn’t need it? Would I get an oophorectomy (the removal of the ovaries) even though it would propel me into early menopause? And if I chose not to get these surgeries, would I be able to live with the anxiety of knowing that I would probably get breast or ovarian cancer?

This is a thought experiment I’ve gotten pretty good at, because I am not exactly a neophyte what-ifer: I am the only woman in my family not to have a BRCA2 mutation. And even before I knew about the mutation, I worried about my risk: when I was ten years old, my mother was diagnosed with an invasive form of breast cancer at 37; she died ten years later in 1994, the same year Myriad Genetics filed its first BRCA patent. Before I took the test, while I waited for my test results, and even after I got them, I rehearsed how I would respond if I hadn’t been the lucky one with the intact copy of the BRCA gene.

It is exceedingly difficult to maintain a rational relationship to statistical risk. The classic example of this is the relative safety of flying as compared to driving: we all know that our odds of dying in a car accident far exceed our odds of perishing in a plane crash, and yet flying anxiety still outstrips driving anxiety by a wide margin. The BRCA gene mutations are poised to become the new fear of flying, as women who have a very low probability of a BRCA mutation now begin to worry that they are at risk.

Case in point: although I tested negative for the BRCA2 mutation five years ago, I now find myself worrying again that perhaps I should be retested. When my sister found that she had a BRCA2 mutation, my doctor advised me that I did not need the full sequencing for both BRCA1 and BRCA2, but could instead get the more limited test, which only evaluates areas of the BRCA2 gene already established as a the problem for my sister. Because it was less expensive to get the limited test rather than the full test, I went with the limited. Now I worry that this was a mistake. But I also know that my insurance carrier is unlikely to pay for a second round of testing, and that I cannot afford to pay the $3,000 required for the full test out of pocket.

The problem is that there is profit—a lot of profit—to be made from stoking all of this worry. The big winner on Tuesday was not women’s health; it was Myriad Genetics, the company that has held the exclusive patent on the BRCA 1 and 2 mutations since the 1990s. Because, in part, of Jolie’s well-intentioned but ambiguously worded exhortation for “every woman” to explore her risk, Myriad may well see a surge in business. And business is already booming: according to Karuna Jaggar, the Executive Director of Breast Cancer Action, “Myriad Genetics’ claim on our very DNA creates a profitable corporate monopoly for them, generating approximately half a billion dollars a year in revenue. In the last fiscal quarter alone, Myriad made $126 million off genetic testing for breast cancer—a full 85 percent of their total revenue.” Although the BRCA test could be easily performed by hundreds of US laboratories for as little as $200, Myriad’s patent prevents these more affordable tests from being performed.

The BRCA gene speaks to the impossible dilemma of for-profit healthcare, particularly when practiced as legal monopoly: some high-risk women will be saved, but many more women will be either needlessly alarmed, financially penalized, or both, so that one corporate monopoly can make a staggering profit. This does not seem like a good trade—or good healthcare policy—and it does not need to be this way.
About the Author
Rose-Ellen Lessy teaches at NYU and The New School. She is working on a book about families and breast cancer.
 18 May 2013

Jolie’s Choice

by Michael Cook

Hollywood celebrity Angelina Jolie was hailed this week for her bravery in revealing that she has had a preventative double mastectomy. The New York Times published her explanation as a scoop on its op-ed page:

“For any woman reading this, I hope it helps you to know you have options. I want to encourage every woman, especially if you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, to seek out the information and medical experts who can help you through this aspect of your life, and to make your own informed choices.”

Susceptibility to breast and ovarian cancer runs in Jolie’s family. Her mother died at 56 of breast cancer and she carries the BRCA1 gene. Doctors told her that she had an 87% chance of contracting breast cancer. After the operation, she said, the risk is now only 5%.

The news was reported widely, so widely and extensively that columnist Brendan O’Neill, of Spiked, complained that it had overshadowed “everything from the savagery in Syria to the tussle over the future of the EU”.

Will the publicity help breast cancer sufferers? Daily Mail columnist Amanda Platell criticised Jolie for making the difficult and exhausting surgery seem too easy. Her doctor at the Pink Lotus Breast Center in Beverly Hills posted the whole procedure on her blog. It was staged over three months and it takes many weeks to recover.

However, the doctor said that Jolie was filled with “bountiful energy”, worked hard on directing another film and took time out to visit the Congo to highlight violence against women.

“To imply, as she has done, that it is possible to bounce back in a few days places an unfair burden on those women who struggle physically and mentally in the aftermath of such major and life-changing surgery.”

There was a political edge to her essay as well. It appeared to be an attempt to influence the US Supreme Court to rule against Myriad Genetics's patents on the BRCA 1 and 2 genes.

“It has got to be a priority to ensure that more women can access gene testing and lifesaving preventive treatment, whatever their means and background, wherever they live. The cost of testing for BRCA1 and BRCA2, at more than $3,000 in the United States, remains an obstacle for many women.”

Media coverage, though, hardly scratched the surface of the complex ethical issues involved in Jolie’s decision to remove both breasts even though were no signs of cancer. According to the US government’s National Cancer Institute, “preventive mastectomy should be considered in the context of each woman’s unique risk factors and her level of concern.” In other words, worry itself is a factor. Many women with the BRCA gene fret so much about their future that they come to think that a mastectomy is the only solution. But there are other options, like frequent surveillance from an early age.

In fact, one study from the University of Michigan has shown that nearly three-quarters of women who decided to have one breast removed were actually at very little risk of developing cancer in the healthy breast. They were driven more by fear than by good medical reasons.

Jolie has had a very difficult personal history with a number of partners, including a lesbian relationship, estrangement from her father, adopting as a single parent, global fame as the world’s most beautiful woman, and intense scrutiny of her personal life by the media. Her case is obviously unique. While it is clear that she is brave and determined, it is far from clear that other women should take her as a role model.

 May 16, 2013


A question of informed choice

Raising awareness about a disease is something celebrities do well. What Magic Johnson did for HIV, and Amitabh Bachchan and Rajnikant for polio in India, Angelina Jolie has now done for breast cancer. The Hollywood actor is being feted worldwide for bringing awareness about genetic testing for the disease, and the options available to women who have tested positive for abnormal BReast CAncer genes (BRCA 1/2). Testing positive for either gene puts women at a 65 per cent risk of developing breast cancer on average. In April, Ms Jolie completed three months of treatment including surgeries to remove both her breasts to ensure that she did not develop the cancer that killed her mother. She has said she chose to go public with her story “because there are many women who do not know that they might be living under the shadow of cancer.” While the procedure that Ms Jolie has undergone is not new and several women in the United States have had a bilateral mastectomy before this, it is her celebrity status that could motivate women in similar circumstances to make what is a difficult decision. It would also help those cancer-stricken women for whom breast removal is no longer just a preventive option, but a necessity.

And yet, the excited urgency that Ms Jolie’s article has caused globally must not mislead women into thinking a double mastectomy is the only way to beat breast cancer before it gets to you. However appropriate the procedure was for her, there are clearly other medical options. Oncologists need to give full information on the alternatives available to women who test positive for the BRCA genes, including periodic screening. Equally important is the need to stress that a negative BRCA test result does not preclude the occurrence of breast cancer at a later date. Essentially, the lesson from Ms Jolie’s story is that cancer is preventable. Spreading awareness about this continues to be a mammoth task in India. A large number of cancers are still being caught when they are too advanced, at a stage where medicine can do little or nothing for the patient. While prevention is recommended and possible by following a healthy lifestyle, early detection is key to squashing the growth of these rogue cells. It is only recently that the concept of preventive annual checks has caught on in India. While those who are at risk stand to gain immensely from genetic testing, the dangers of this diagnostic tool being turned into another exploitative enterprise cannot be ruled out. The government will do well to ensure that a monitoring and regulatory mechanism is in place to meet the eventuality that Ms Jolie’s example will create both a demand for the test and its supply.

 Tuesday May 21, 2013

Bold move

Angelina Jolie’s disclosure of her double mastectomy procedure might help to increase public awareness about the threat of breast cancer and the options available for women to prevent and treat it. Genetic risk is an important factor in breast cancer, as indeed in the case of many other diseases.

The presence of cancer-causing genes is said to indicate a 70 per cent risk. The actress was well aware of this as her mother had lost her life to breast cancer at a young age. This made her go in for a test and when the presence of the cancer-linked genes was confirmed she went in for surgery to remove her breasts. In her case it is stated that there was an 87 per cent risk of breast cancer but this is believed to have come down to 5 per cent now.

The public announcement by Angelina might prompt many women to consider the need to go in for the surgical treatment if necessary. Endorsement by celebrities has encouraged many people in medical and in other areas to more readily accept proposals. Mastectomy is an emotionally stressful idea for most women. But very often it may be too late when they are prepared to go in for that. Though it is not always the case that mastectomy will completely eliminate the possibility of cancer it might reduce its chances. Mastectomy is not the only method to prevent the disease from developing. There are other processes like medication also. The importance of Angelina’s announcement is that it might increase awareness and help in early detection of the risk that many women carry and make them think of the options available.

The world over breast cancer is the most common form of cancer to affect women. In India more than 50,000 women die of it  every year. While tests to understand genetic proclivity to the disease are certainly beneficial, it is very costly for most women. The test costs about $ 3,000 and it is unaffordable to most. A private company holds the right to conduct these tests in the US and this is based on its claim that it holds the patent for the cancer-linked genes. The claim for patent over human or plant genes is a hotly disputed subject. The American company’s claim is being tested before the US Supreme Court now.
 London ~ Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Breast cancer link to cleaning products and air fresheners

By Martin Hickman, Consumer Affairs Correspondent

Air fresheners and some cleaning products increase the risk of breast cancer, a study suggests.

Women who regularly used a combination of cleaning products were twice as likely to have breast cancer as other healthy women, US scientists found. The strongest link was between cancer and air fresheners and mould and mildew removers.

Increased incidence of cancer was also linked to insect repellents.

But there was no connection with home and garden pesticides and surface and oven cleaners.

The researchers admitted the study was imperfect because they asked cancer sufferers to remember whether they had used cleaning products and the strongest correlation was found among those who believed chemicals contributed to the disease. But they defended the findings as "biologically plausible", saying many air fresheners and cleaning products contained endocrine-disrupting chemicals linked to breast cancer in laboratory experiments on rodents.

They said synthetic musks and phthalates were commonly used in solid and spray fresheners and antimicrobials, phthalates and alkylphenolic surfactants were found in many mould and mildew products.

Researchers from Silent Spring Institute, Massachusetts, and Boston University interviewed 787 women with breast cancer and 721 healthy women for the study.

The women – who all lived in the Cape Cod area of Massachusetts – were asked about their use of cleaning products and pesticides, and split into four groups ranging between high and low users.

According to the study, published in the journal Environmental Health: "Women who reported the highest combined cleaning product use had a doubled risk of breast cancer compared to those with the lowest reported use. Use of air fresheners and products for mould and mildew control were associated with increased risk."

The authors said their work was the first into a potential link between breast cancer and cleaning products.

Breast Cancer Research UK and Breakthrough Breast Cancer, which campaign against confirmed carcinogens such as cigarette smoke, said conclusions could not be drawn from it because it suffered from "recall bias". "This small study asked women with breast cancer to remember how often they used cleaning products many years ago," said Jessica Harris, Cancer Research's health information officer.

"It only linked the products to breast cancer among women who believed chemicals could cause breast cancer, and not in women who didn't think such products caused the disease."

Philip Malpass, director general of the UK Cleaning Products Industry Association, said UK brands did not contain substances shown to cause cancer, adding: "We agree with the US authors who recognise that these results could arise simply from selective or biased recall of cleaning product use."

Clare Dimmer, chair of trustees at Breast Cancer UK, said: "Although we will have to wait for more research before we can be sure about the link, some women already diagnosed with the disease may want to take a precautionary approach and review the levels of potentially-hazardous chemicals in the products they use."

UK: An important ePetition to HM Government on behalf of the Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse Print E-mail

1. The Sordid Background of Child Sexual Abuse in Britain by Jennifer Drew

2. Link and Text of ePetition to Her Majesty's Government created by Nazia Khan

3a, b and c. Samples of recent reports justifying this ePetition


1. In the UK following the admission of guilt and accountability by male serial sexual predator Stuart Hall who for years enjoyed his male pseudo sex right to sexually prey on pre-teen and teenage girls, yet another male celebrity has been arrested in connection with an allegation concerning child sexual exploitation/violence.

The number of male celebrities being arrested on suspicion of child sexual exploitation/violence continues to increase and their common factor apart from their sex being male, is they are all over the age of 70.

Malestream media continues to promote its propaganda message that males sexually preying on female and male children is something which happened in the past during the so-called 'sexual revolution of the 1970's 'when women magically gained their sexual rights and ownership of their bodies.' Males apparently saw this magical freedom as an endorsement of male right to sexually prey on women and girls with impunity. Malestream media claims it was the 'promiscuous 1970's' which is to blame for these male celebrities, such as convicted male sexual predator Stuart Hall and deceased male sexual predator Jimmy Savile being allowed (sic) to enjoy their pseudo male sex right to pre-teen and teenage girls' bodies.

This is not true because First Wave Feminists commencing in the late 1890's and until outbreak of World War 1, engaged in a campaign publicly holding males accountable for enacting their pseudo male sex right to women and girls.

In the 1970's Second Wave Feminists focused on pseudo male sex right to females of all ages and male dominated media initially supported these feminists' work on holding male sexual predators accountable, but this stance was temporary. Malestream media swiftly realised holding men accountable for enacting their male pseudo sex right to female bodies would challenge Male Supremacist System and upset (sic) innumerable powerful and not so powerful males who continued to believe they have the innate right, if they choose, to sexually prey on any female of any age because her sex is female not male.

A similar situation is occurring now with malestream media promoting the lie that society has supposedly magically morphed into one wherein male sexual violence against women and girls is as rare as the unicorn! Legislation is in place to protect females and male children from those mythical monsters - the (male) paedophile! But passing legislation is only one part of the issue, because enacting said legislation and regularly evaluating whether or not said legislation is being implemented is another matter. So we continue to have a situation wherein innumerable males, most of whom do not hold positions of socio-economic power, continue to enjoy with impunity their male pseudo sex right to females of all ages and to a much lesser extent boy children.

Whilst innumerable previous UK governments proclaimed they were focusing on ensuring the right for all female and male children not to be subjected to male sexual exploitation/male sexual violence, because measures/legislation had been put into effect to provide support to victims of male sexual violence/sexual exploitation, the reality is very different.

Survivors of male sexual exploitation/male sexual violence continue to be pathologised and treated as if they are suffering from a medical condition, which necessitates treatment in order to correct their 'supposed medical syndromes,' rather than recognising these are coping strategies resulting from systemic male sexual violence inflicted upon them.

Louise Armstrong, a feminist activist who spent years researching and speaking out against systemic male sexual violence against female and male children, rightly stated that when adult survivors of childhood sexual violence/sexual exploitation speak out holding male perpetrators accountable; male supremacist system's response was not what these survivors had hoped for. Instead a very profitable industry was created whereby therapeutic intervention is seen as the answer to systemic male sexual violence against women and children. The industry pathologises survivors and innumerable male perpetrators are now supposedly suffering from a 'medical sickness or disease.' This neatly excuses/minimalises/exonerates male accountability because the male has a medical syndrome and hence is not responsible for his choice to sexually prey on women and children. Instead there are no perpetrators only victims including male sexual predators.

This view is widespread and is applied to all forms of male violence against women and girls, because of pandemic male centric refusal to accept male violence against women and girls is a political act of male sexual power whereby individual males and/or males in a group enact their pseudo male sex right to females of all ages and to a much lesser extent boy children.

An epetititon has been created demanding the current UK government take action to put in place in every city and county, specific support for the innumerable survivors of (male) child sexual exploitation. This epetition succinctly states what needs to be undertaken by putting survivors first rather than viewing their suffering as being the problem which must be addressed and managed by so-called 'professionals.' Survivors continue to be pathologised and expected to make a swift recovery and return to "normality," because these survivors are 'the problem' not innumerable males sexually preying on women and children. Survivors who do not enact so-called appropriate submissive and deferential behaviour towards the 'professional(s)' are labelled 'a problem in need of fixing.' In reality the survivor's(s) behaviour/attitude/distrust etc. are normal reactions/coping strategies which occur due to systemic male sexual violence inflicted on them.

The survivor is not 'the problem' - the problem is our Male Supremacist System's continuing denial of the fact that pandemic male sexual violence against women and children shows no sign whatsoever of decreasing but continues to be justified/excused/denied by men in positions of socio-economic power. Claiming survivors are 'in dire need of fixing' because they are the ones causing problems for Society benefits men collectively because holding males responsible must never be acknowledged or publicly stated. Pathologisation of survivors is precisely what Louise Armstrong warned would happen and this is the current situation now in the UK - Jennifer Drew


2. To

Combating, breaking the myths and taboo on Child Sexual Abuse (CSA).

Ensuring Survivors are not pathologised & victimised by our society.

Responsible department: Department of Health

We Survivors of CSA ask for your help and support in;

  • - ensuring adequate provisions of support/services available & accessible in every city/county by specialist staff in CSA.
  • - eliminating adherence to stereotypes & what supposedly defines a 'real survivor'.
  • - ensuring every service is inclusive of providing support to CSA Survivors & adequately funded.
  • - providing free specialist long term psychotherapy, not based solely on clinical diagnosis & reducing waiting times.
  • - ensuring there are trained staff who understand the cultural difficulties faced by a BME/Ethnic CSA Survivors.
  • - providing services/professionals with supplementary training in order to support CSA Survivors.
  • - ensuring there are stricter guidelines, sensitivity on media reporting on CSA.
  • - CSA Survivors to be consulted when implementing policies or development of services.
  • - CSA Survivors to be respected both during police disclosure and medical examination.

We thank you for your support and time.

Please Sign HERE

3a.  London ~ Tuesday 7 May 2013

Jimmy Tarbuck arrested in child sex abuse inquiry

Comedian questioned by police in April over an allegation of child sex abuse in 1970s

By Press Association

Jimmy Tarbuck: comedian was arrested at his home in Kingston Upon Thames, south-west London, and released on bail. (Ken McKay/Rex Features)

Comedian Jimmy Tarbuck has been arrested in connection with a historic child sex abuse allegation, according to sources.
Tarbuck, 73, was questioned by North Yorkshire police on 26 April in relation to an incident that allegedly occurred in the late 1970s in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, when the victim was a young boy.

The TV personality's name had not been revealed until the Daily Mail named him on Monday night.

It is understood Tarbuck was arrested at his home in Kingston Upon Thames, south-west London, and released on bail.

The arrest was made following information passed by Metropolitan police officers working on Operation Yewtree to North Yorkshire police.

A force spokesman said: "North Yorkshire police can confirm that a 73-year-old man has been arrested in connection with a historic child sex abuse investigation in Harrogate.

"The man was arrested in Kingston Upon Thames on Friday 26 April 2013.

"Following questioning, he was released on police bail pending further inquiries.
"The complaint relates to an incident that occurred in the late 1970s when the victim was a young boy.

"It would not be appropriate to comment further at this stage."

Tarbuck is known for being a comedian who has spent more than 50 years in television. Born in 1940 in Liverpool, he was a schoolmate of John Lennon and his first television breakthrough came with It's Tarbuck 65! in 1964. He hosted numerous quiz shows, including Winner Takes All and Full Swing.

In 1994, he was awarded an OBE by the Queen for his services to showbusiness and charity.

Last November, he performed in the Royal Variety Performance at the Royal Albert Hall in London.

His daughter is the actor, television and radio presenter Liza Tarbuck.

Tarbuck's agent could not be reached for comment for on Monday night.

3b. London ~ Friday 3 May 2013

After Stuart Hall and Savile, the more victims' voices are heard, the better

Stuart Hall's admission of sexual offences has brought the abuse scandal that started with Jimmy Savile back into the headlines. It's painful, but important, that victims are now speaking out

By Suzanne Moore

Stuart Hall leaves Preston crown court with his solicitor. We still do not know how to deal with revelations about abuses such as his, writes Suzanne Moore. (Paul Cousans/Barcroft Media)

Witches never look quite like you imagine. The latest "victim" of what has been called a "celebrity witch-hunt" is an elderly, baffled-looking man. He is Stuart Hall aged 83. It turns out he is not a victim at all. He is a perpetrator who has pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting 13 young girls, the youngest of whom was nine. Yes, nine years old.

I want to emphasise this because, ever since the Savile scandal broke, there has been a rumbling discussion about the culture of the 70s, "permissiveness" and a haze of confusion about what constitutes consent. Sexual abuse and rape by men who were supposedly trusted and revered by the public has resulted in massive displacement, a smog of guilt – why didn't we know, or did we know and ignore it? – meaning all kinds of justifications have been made. Some have tried to turn this into a story about the evils of the BBC or of the Leveson inquiry, because in some ways that is easier to deal with than the banality of "light entertainment" being the home of sordid abuse.

At first, remember Savile was regarded as an eccentric, merely doing what "the talent" at the time did. When the full extent of his wickedness was revealed, we put him in a box marked "monster". As he was conveniently dead, that box was then moved, for fear of desecration. Savile, we saw, was a vile predator, and yet given access to already damaged and institutionalised girls.

The whole "groupie" excuse did not wash. Instead we learned of the seedy reality of the tracksuit bottoms whipped off, and serious sexual assault on a 10-year-old boy. We shuddered, looked away and assigned it to the past.

Well, some of us did. From the moment I started writing about Savile in early October, I began to receive letters and emails from women detailing their own abuse, often by a family "friend" and often, horribly enough, with their parents knowing. Thankfully the writer Yasmin Alibhai-Brown received one such letter from a woman Hall had assaulted. Yasmin is such a concerned and persistent person that she took it to the police. That started the inquiries rolling, for which we must thank her.

The common themes of many of the missives I received were that women who have been abused feel guilty, responsible and so ashamed that they have never spoken about it. The Savile case was churning up terrible memories. This experience was not completely new to me.

Once, when I was teaching an MA course, an extremely competent and mature student came to see me after a film I had shown triggered all sorts of memories for her about abuse. Apart from referring her to organisations that deal with "survivors", I found myself shocked to see someone so knocked sideways by things that had happened so many years earlier.

This feeling is now there again, but this time collectively. We still do not know how to deal with abuse. We are reeling from these revelations in denial, disbelief and distress.

For instance, there are those who criticise Operation Yewtree (set up post-Savile) on the grounds that we cannot apply today's attitudes to the sex crimes of yesteryear. There also exists the feeling that perhaps the police are themselves indulging in some retrospective guilt trip: as they did not act during the Savile era, despite complaints being made very early on in his career, they have now gone into overdrive, hanging out innocent men to dry. The list grows: Max Clifford, Rolf Harris, Dave Lee Travis, Jim Davidson, Bill Roache and Freddie Starr have all had serious allegations made against them.

The piecing together of historical evidence, as there is no physical or forensic evidence, is what will make or break these cases. Once again a different, murky time is demarcated for these alleged crimes: the blur of the late 60s and 70s, which we are told was both a more "innocent" time and also a time of great promiscuity. Promiscuity for whom remains the crucial question.

As each of these "family" entertainers is arrested, I hear people – often men – saying, "Is all my childhood going to be destroyed?" Which is unfortunate, because yes, that's exactly what abuse does. I don't share this nostalgia for these "wholesome" presenters – they were always a bit creepy – and the new details of their extraordinary behaviour bear this out. The immunity that protects celebrities was clearly in play 40 years ago. Was it really OK that when Hall turned up at a school in Cheshire in 1967 to hand out school prizes, he insisted on kissing the young schoolgirls? Was it OK that, as Linda McDougall recalls, he occupied the medical room at the Look North studios for his dalliances with "lady friends" or that "he was one of those people who had his hands all over you and all over any female that came in". Was it OK when, eight years ago, he told Radio 5 listeners, "Your average 10-year-old can instruct you in oral and anal sex"? These remarks were dismissed as satirical banter.

Anyone my age knows how some men did behave in the workplace, and you got as far away from them as fast as possible. But there were always girls who didn't or couldn't. For the 70s was pre-Aids, a time when we were expected to be free and easy. What did not exist then was the idea that one could be sexually harassed, and could complain and be taken seriously.

This is why today, when I hear the voices of Hall's victims, I would argue that naming the suspects (which enabled some women to come forward) remains powerful. Some of these women have been silent for a very long time. When Susan Harrison, whom Hall plied with alcohol then assaulted, told her father after returning home in tears, he said: "He is famous and we are nobodies. Nobody is going to believe you if you tell." Unless victims waive their right to anonymity, the victims do indeed remain nobodies. Harrison felt guilty, worrying that Hall may go on to abuse others, which he did. She later suffered from depression.

Kim Wright, another of Hall's victims, was watching the news about Savile when she decided to make a formal complaint. She is a policewoman who has worked in child protection. "I've always felt what Stuart Hall did to me is not something he'd do once, that it was part of some kind of modus operandi." Wright felt that if the police could tell other victims they were not the only one, they would have the courage to come forward. And she was right. "When he picked on me," she said, "he picked on the wrong person."

Indeed. Though surely sex without consent is always picking on the wrong person. We can now choose to recognise that or not. We worry about our young, about "sexualisation", about access to porn, and yet we are still – some of us – hazy about consent. Girls are still deemed to be "asking for it" if they are out late or wearing the wrong clothes.

It is much easier to assign all these horrible stories to a different time. But is it really so much better now? Are young women believed when they speak up today?

These men, who now look old and pathetic, clearly at the time felt immune and able to damage who they liked. Those who criticise Operation Yewtree should listen to the calls coming into Childline for a few nights. Abuse didn't stop with the arrest of a few sad DJs. I see Peter McKay in the Daily Mail quoting Thomas Macaulay: "We know of no spectacle so ridiculous as the British public in one of its periodical fits of morality."

Maybe so, but what culture thinks it's all right to sexually assault a nine-year-old? None that I want any part of. Now let the victims' voices come to the fore. They were pushing off Hall and Savile. They were saying no. They were crying. They were gagging. They were bleeding. They were hurting. Child abuse and sexual assault has not suddenly stopped, but if we cannot speak about the past, we cannot speak about the present. Now we need to listen.

3c. UK ~ May 10 2013

This is not the "persecution of old men". This is the prosecution of rapists, and we should applaud it

It’s not just about Jimmy Savile, or Stuart Hall, or the BBC, or the Socialist Workers’ Party, or two American high-schoolers crying in court, or three young women chained in a basement in Ohio, or one dead girl in a hospital in Delhi. After too long, people are fighting back against rape culture – and there's nothing worse than watching the bigots stand their ground.

By Laurie Penny

Stuart Hall, who was accused of rape and pled guilty to indecent assault, receiving his MBE in 2012. (Getty Images)

There’s nothing more embarrassing than watching bigotry flopping around trying to save itself while the tide of history retreats down the beach. Yet another week has passed in which high-profile politicians and entertainers are all over the papers being fingered for rape and sexual violence.

One of the victims of Stuart Hall, who had a long record of assaulting teenage girls, told ITN how Hall attacked her at the hotel where she worked: “He grabbed hold of me and he started kissing me and then he tried to force himself on me. I struggled, I tried to push him away, and it was only the fact that there was someone walking along the corridor . . . that he stopped and I managed to get away.” Some people are asking, with an air of annoyance, as if they were tired of all the fuss: how many more revelations will there be?

The question is chillingly rhetorical. We know, really, that the answer is many, many more. This isn’t just about ten, or forty or a hundred dodgy individuals. We have moved beyond the point where we can decently speak about outliers when it comes to systemic tolerance of sexual violence. It’s not just about Jimmy Savile, or Stuart Hall, or the BBC, or the Socialist Workers’ Party, or two American high-schoolers crying in court, or three young women chained in a basement in Ohio, or one dead girl in a hospital in Delhi. Over the past year, an enormous, global cultural shift has begun to take place around issues of consent, rape and violence against women, and it’s a cultural shift for which our institutions are clearly vastly underprepared.

Some members of those institutions have responded with panicked self-justification. We didn’t know, we thought it was allowed, we weren’t there, we didn’t see, they’re all lying sluts anyway and they should stop whinging and playing the victim. Take lawyer Barbara Hewson, who claimed in Spiked that the real problem is that child protection agencies are trying to profit from changing definitions of victimhood, and the real victims are the “old men” who are being unfairly scapegoated for a bit of jolly dressing-room lechery. I do not “support the persecution of old men”, as Hewson manipulatively puts it, but I absolutely support the prosecution of rapists, and you should, too.

Hewson’s article is part of a series of defences of high-profile rape defendants published at Spiked, a once-interesting magazine reduced to a sad, attention-seeking faux-leftist cult on a mission to whip up controversy by making libertarian reactionaries feel good about sexism. Its editor, Brendan O’Neill, is possibly the closest thing the British Left has to a professional rape apologist, and has no qualms about monetising misogyny in his Telegraph blog. I’m ashamed to admit that I once brought him a cup of coffee as an intern.

It’s always annoying arguing with Spiked. You know that that’s just what they want you to do, because they’re vicious trolls who seem to believe that compunction is something only the little people have. Hewson’s piece, however, in which she calls for the lowering of the age of consent and the imposition of a time-limit on rape complaints so that we can retroactively exonerate all of our dubious cultural heroes, has struck a nerve.

Hewson is far from only one to plead for tolerance on behalf of the intolerable. Men like Stuart Hall and Jimmy Savile lived in a different time, their detractors claim, a time when shoving your fists with impunity up the skirt of any passing schoolgirl was just the present you got for being born with a set of testicles. Said detractors often speak of this time with the same kitschy nostalgia usually reserved for the Village Green, toasted teacakes and casual racism: life was just easier back then, for some of us at least. Elderly rapists and abusers didn’t know what they were doing at the time, so how can they be blamed?

This defence, which is rather insulting to the significant and growing number of males who absolutely do respect women enough not to shove their hands and penises inside them without asking, is also wheeled out on behalf of the many men, young and old, who are suddenly being exposed as rapists and abusers despite never having heard of Jimmy Savile. "They didn’t know they were doing anything wrong."

It’s the same defence used last month when two American high-schoolers in Steubenville, Ohio were convicted of raping an unconscious girl over several hours and capturing the evidence on cameraphones: these poor young men didn’t know they were committing a crime. Now their futures are ruined. Perhaps the girl in question should have kept her mouth shut? Perhaps all the countless thousands of victims of rape and abuse should do the same, now and for ever? Perhaps we should remember who the real victims are in this situation: grown men and their guilty erections, mercilessly victimised by wanton teenagers who continue to have the brazen temerity to actually exist in the world as more than acquiescent fuck-holes.

The fact that these men felt they were doing nothing wrong is precisely the problem. The fact that for generations, men of all ages have felt able to use and abuse the bodies of women and children for their own entertainment is the problem, and the fact that our culture legitimises this approach is a bigger problem.

For centuries, men in positions of power were untouchable, while women and children were anything but. One simply could not call a man like Jimmy Savile or Stuart Hall to account for his actions and expect to be taken seriously. One could not accuse a popular football player of rape and expect justice. These things went on, but they went on in silence, with the complicity and of quiet armies of flunkies and facilitators.
The reason that these "old men" are being prosecuted – sorry, "persecuted" – right now is simple. They are being prosecuted because their victims are finally coming forward, and their victims are finally coming forward because society has reached a tipping point when it comes to rape culture.

Rape culture, for those who still require an explanation, is the cultural tolerance of rape and sexual assault. It’s the idea that people who are raped must have in some way provoked it, and I know from experience that it can take years for victims to understand that it is men’s responsibility not to rape. It's an old prejudice, embedded in our institutions, in our police forces and judiciary systems, in political parties and in public organisations like the BBC. It also infects the tabloid and broadsheet press, who have changed their tune in recent weeks only because the process of consciousness-raising is panic-inducing, and there’s nothing the media loves more than a good panic.

Right now, though, things are changing, and men and boys and those who love and respect men and boys are going to have to shift the way they think about rape, abuse and harrassment – fast. The most important attitude change is going to take place not among abusers, but among the far larger contingent who simply stand by and let it happen. Among the people who have been taught, or learned from hard experience, that these things are simply part of the tissue of power in this society, perhaps not strictly moral, but not worth taking the risk of speaking out about. They’re only women, after all, and they were probably asking for it.

For many, many generations, women and children were told: don't let yourself get raped, and if you do, for god's sake don't whinge about it. Don't act like a slut. Don't let your guard down. Don’t ever assume for a second that you have the same right as a man to exist in public or private space without fear of assault and humiliation. That message is slowly, finally, starting to change, so that instead, we’re telling men and boys: do not rape. Do not grope, assault, bully or hurt women, children or anyone over whom you have temporary power. Doing so will no longer increase your social status. If you do it anyway, you will find yourself publicly shamed and possibly up on criminal charges. This is the age of the internet, and nobody forgets.

Confronting structural violence is intensely painful. It’s like squeezing out an enormous splinter you hadn’t realised was there. The pain comes, in large part, from the understanding that you yourself might be implicated by virtue of easy ignorance; that you yourself might have stood by while evil went on; that people you know and trust and respect might very well have done terrible things simply because they thought they were allowed to. Questioning the morality of slave-owning was, until comparatively recently in human history, a minority position. It would be crass and simplistic to equate rape culture with slavery even if there weren’t complex historical links between the two. There is one important similarity, however, and that’s in the reaction when dominant, oppressive cultures finally wake up to the idea that evil on an immense scale has been taking place right in front of them.

Sometimes that reaction is shocked disbelief, frantic apology, self-blame; more often it is angry, even violent. There is no rage, after all, quite like the desperate rage of those who refuse to acknowledge their own bigotry.

This is going to hurt, I’m afraid. An enormous, panic-inducing cultural change is underway, and before it is over, more men and boys will be accused of and prosecuted for rape and assault. We will see more beloved cultural icons contaminated by revelations past transgressions, more young men who thought it was alright to taking advantage of their female friends slapped with convictions that will follow them around forever.

We are going to have to face up to the idea that men and boys we know and respect, men and boys who may be decent, ordinary citizens, friends and relatives and colleagues and bosses, have been complicit in a culture that sees women as less than human and hurts and humiliates them with impunity. It’s not just a handful of monsters. Rape culture has pushed itself into every part of our society, and if we truly want to change it, we will have to look at ourselves and those we love in a new and painful way. This is something we are going to have to sit with, and accept, and not shrink from, because right now we all need to decide what side of history we want to be on.

India: Unethical hysterectomy of young rural women: Medical corruption, population control, or BOTH Print E-mail

 India ~ Monday, April 15, 2013


Wombs and the Wolves

By Swagata Yadavar

Guddi devi, 27: She had sought treatment for a simple stomach ache. The doctor prescribed hysterectomy. Today, with all her vitality sapped, she feels it was the biggest. (Amey Mansabdar)

Sunita devi, 35: She sought treatment for appendicitis. Her doctor removed her uterus, too. She runs this shop for a livelihood, as she cannot work in the fields any longer.  (Amey Mansabdar)

Sangita devi, 26: She underwent hysterectomy two years ago. Her husband says the doctor who operated upon her often hassles her for signatures on "some paper".  (Amey Mansabdar)

Vimla Devi, 20: Her caesarian section that went wrong was followed by a hysterectomy. The childless couple has filed a police case. But her husband, Mahendra Kumar, says the cops have been threatening him to not pursue the case.  (Amey Mansabdar)

“I feel sick.” These words still echo in my ears. They did not come from a dying man or a depressed woman. They were whimpered by scores of 'normal' women in India's rural hinterlands.

The cause lay in two words uttered by their unscrupulous doctors: bacchedani kharaab. These gullible women were told their uteri were faulty, and that they had to be removed.

THE WEEK's journey through some villages in Bihar and Rajasthan revealed the plight of women­ many of them allegedly unmarried­ whose wombs were removed as “treatment” for everything, from a simple stomach ache to menstrual issues.

Why? The reason, again, lay in two words: filthy lucre.

Sunita Devi, a 35-year-old labourer of Latbasepur village in Bihar's Samastipur district, would tell us more. It all started with a debilitating stomach pain, which she had ignored for long. Thanks to the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana, she hoped to finally get proper treatment at a private hospital.

At Krishna Hospital, one of the hospitals empanelled in the rural health scheme, Sunita was told she needed an appendicitis surgery. And a hysterectomy, too.

She underwent both eight months ago. Today, she is feeble. “I often get palpitations,” she said. “I get frequent headaches and gas trouble.”

The mother of five can no longer work in the fields. She now assists at a small shop in the village. The plight of her two sisters-in-law who also underwent hysterectomies is no different.

Three years ago, the RSBY, which entitles families below poverty line to free treatment up to Rs.30,000 a year, was implemented in Samastipur district of Bihar. It was a godsend for the rural masses. But, in the hands of greedy doctors, it became a cruel instrument to siphon off public money.

The Samastipur scam came to fore when District Magistrate Kundan Kumar found an alarming number of hysterectomies conducted by private nursing homes during an RSBY meeting. Of 14,851 procedures conducted under RSBY between 2010 and 2012 in 16 empanelled hospitals in Samastipur, 5,503 were hysterectomies. That is about 37 per cent of all procedures. In some hospitals, more than 50 per cent were hysterectomies, which costs the highest of all procedures under the RSBY scheme.

Kundan Kumar organised a five-day medical camp to ascertain if the procedures conducted were needed. About 2,600 women who had undergone hysterectomy attended the camp. The expert team found 717 cases of unwanted surgery, 124 cases of underage surgery, 320 cases of fleecing and 23 cases of non-surgery.

The magistrate's report clearly pointed to gross unethical practices. For instance, Anita Devi, 23, who complained of abdominal pain and white discharge, had been operated upon. The expert team commented: “Conservative treatment should have done, hysterectomy not justified.” Similar was the case of Ratna Devi, 40, who underwent hysterectomy for appendicitis.

The report noted that many beneficiaries mentioned by the private hospitals could not be traced. In many cases, the hospitals simply swiped their RSBY cards but never conducted the procedures. There were also instances of procedures being marked against the name of dead people. Worse, some hysterectomy 'cases' reportedly turned out to be men!

It was found that many of the private hospitals and nursing homes did not have the requisite infrastructure for the procedures. Only some of them had well-trained surgeons, and in a few cases, operations were conducted by non-medical practitioners.

Subsequently, 12 of 16 nursing homes in Samastipur were de-panelled from the list. FIRs, too, were lodged against five of these guilty hospitals under various sections.

The involved doctors, meanwhile, were doing their best to cover their tracks. “Dr Thakur from Krishna Hospital often comes to our house asking for our signature on some paper,” said the family of Sangita Devi, 26. Sangita underwent hysterectomy two years ago. Since then, she has been battling frequent spells of weakness, dizziness and headaches. She now weighs just 30kg and can hardly manage any work. She has already spent Rs.5,000 on medicine and the frequent trips to the doctors are eating away most of what her husband earns. When THE WEEK contacted, Dr Thakur refused to meet us.

Next, THE WEEK travelled to Rajasthan's Dausa district, where a high number of hysterectomies was reported recently. Guddi Devi, 27, felt sick, though she technically was not. Her bones and joints ached all day. Fatigue bound her to bed. Food did not interest her. And her eyesight was fading. It was nothing but a clear case of premature menopause, courtesy the hysterectomy and oophorectomy she underwent three years ago.

“I had gone to the doctor, complaining of stomach ache. He told me that my uterus should be removed or I would get cancer,” she said. Her family, which owns just a small piece of land, was convinced to go for the “life-saving” surgery costing Rs.16,000.

“I feel weak all the time. I constantly fall ill, and the stomach pain for which I sought treatment initially persists,” said the mother of three. She has already paid another 110,000 on treatment of these symptoms, often travelling two and a half hours by tractors and buses to the nearest hospital. Now, her 12-year-old daughter, Rinki, takes care of all the household responsibilities. “I am upset about spoiling her education,” added a sullen Guddi.

Every village THE WEEK visited had similar stories to tell. “I went to the doctor for excessive menstrual bleeding and he advised hysterectomy,” said Angoori Devi, 34, of Sikandara. “She cannot do anything now; she gets easily tired,” complained her daughter, Guddi. The family had to sell their buffalo to pay for the surgery, which gave her joint aches, indigestion, dizziness and fatigue as companions.

“When I was admitted in the hospital, there were about 40 women who were undergoing the same operation,” Angoori recalled about her stay at Madaan Hospital. Activists in the area said as many as 2,300 women in the region have undergone unwanted hysterectomies at private hospitals in the past two years.

An RTI application filed by advocate Durga Prasad Saini of Dausa revealed that of 385 procedures conducted over six months in three private hospitals of Bandikui town in 2010, at least 226 were hysterectomies. And of them, 185 were below the age of 30.

“Is there an epidemic in Dausa that forces women to undergo hysterectomy?” asked Saini, who is also National General Secretary of Akhil Bharatiya Grahak Panchayat (ABGP). “If there was a suspicion of cancer, why was not a single biopsy done?”

What compounds the issue in such villages is the people have no one else to go to. For instance, the post of a gynaecologist had been lying vacant for many years in the community centre in Bandikui despite repeated requests.

Though the centre got a gynaecologist, it wore a dark and deserted look when we visited. “Tell us how we will manage when such a big centre only has five doctors,” said an employee. On the other hand, there are five big private hospitals in the town, doing well.

“The doctors have an understanding with the rural practitioners, who are promised a commission on referrals,” alleged Dr O.P. Bansal, who runs a hospital in Dausa. Even employees at government hospitals act as agents who take patients to private clinics.

Hysterectomy was so ubiquitous in the town that some households had three generations of women who had gone under the knife. Take the case of Sushila Devi of Maanpur village who had gone to Katta Hospital to meet a relative, Guddi Devi, admitted for hysterectomy. Sushila, too, got caught in the trap and was operated upon three days later.

Guddi Devi, a mother of four, was advised hysterectomy to cure body ache. Now, she can no longer work as a labourer. “I feel dizzy when I am in the sun, I cannot lift heavy loads and get frequent palpitations,” she said.
Surprisingly, despite protests and frequent media reports, no action was taken against erring private hospitals. “They have consent papers from the women, so we cannot do anything unless the Clinical Establishment Act is passed,” said O.P. Baherwa, chief medical and health officer, Dausa.

Many FIRs, too, were lodged in the local police stations against the doctors. Mahendra Kumar filed a case against Madhur Hospital and its owner Dr Rajesh Dhakar, after his 20-year-old wife, Vimla Devi, was subjected to hysterectomy following a failed caesarian section.

The crestfallen childless couple alleged that the police did not investigate the matter properly and threatened 'action' if Kumar pursued the case.

The attitude of officials at Dausa was, indeed, sympathetic towards the doctors. “People here attack the doctors and threaten to destroy the hospital, hoping to get compensation,” said District Collector Pramila Surana. Police Inspector Rohitash Devanda said he had not come across any cases against doctors since he took charge 10 months ago. “These people blackmail doctors to gain money. If some patients die during treatment, it does not mean the doctors are at fault,” he said. A clock bearing Madhur Hospital's name hung on his office wall.

The RSBY triggered a uterus loot in Chhattisgarh, too. Health Minister Amar Agrawal stated that 1,800 hysterectomies were done in just eight months last year. It was estimated that at least 7,000 hysterectomies were conducted in the state over the past three years under the RSBY scheme. The issue, which was noted by the National Human Rights Commission, led to a furore and licences of 22 private hospitals were cancelled.

Down south in Andhra Pradesh, it was the state government's insurance scheme, Arogyashri, that led to rampant exploitation. Ever since the scheme was implemented in 2007, there was an exponential rise in hysterectomy cases.

Hyderabad-based NGO Centre for Action, Research and People's Development found that 171 women under age 40 in just one administrative block of Medak district had undergone hysterectomy. About 95 per cent of them had gone to private clinics for treatment and 33 per cent had their ovaries also removed.

A survey by the Andhra Pradesh Mahila Samatha Society found that as much as 32 per cent of about 1,000 women who underwent hysterectomy were below age 30.

These case studies and statistics point to deep rot in the health care system. In fact, it is disheartening to see a project like the RSBY ­termed by the World Bank as “path-breaking”­ being exploited. The RSBY was seen as a prelude to the Centre's ambitious Universal Health Coverage, which is expected to be implemented under the 12th Five-Year Plan (2012-17).

While private health providers bring better infrastructure and quality, they also bring in the risk of greed and exploitation. Without proper monitoring, this kind of public-private partnership is a cause for concern, said Padma Deosthali, coordinator of Centre for Enquiry into Health and Allied Themes, Mumbai. “For instance, there is no mention of quality of care in the empanelment under the RSBY scheme. Not even basic standards like presence of a qualified medical practitioner and nurse,” she pointed out.

“More than treating health problems, the focus is on procedures and surgeries, which was exploited by private nursing homes,” said Dr A.V. Sahay, medical officer and district head of Bihar Swasthya Seva Sangh. He also stressed on the need for enhancing the public health care system and improving the “reproductive hygiene” of women in rural regions.

Dr Yogesh Jain of Jan Swasthya Sahyog said a major flaw in the scheme was that it did not cover out-patient treatment and, hence, encouraged unwanted hospitalisation. Without strict guidelines, doctors cannot be expected to regulate themselves, he added.

Currently, however, the Central government has directed all state nodal agencies of RSBY that approval from the insurance company concerned is mandatory for hysterectomies performed on women under age 40.

But does the issue end there? The brouhaha shall pass. The scam will turn stale. But what about the innocent women who went under the knives for no reason? Sadly, no one, except a few NGOs, has reached out to them.

“The cost of maintaining the health of a woman who had undergone hysterectomy with medicines and supplements is Rs.18,250 a year,” said Dr Prakash Vinjamuri of Hyderabad-based Life HRG, which studied the surgery's impact on women in Medak district of Andhra Pradesh in 2011.

The toll is not just monetary. Loss of vitality and libido affects the psychological and social health of the woman. The study in Medak, for instance, found women whose uteri were removed faced domestic violence over sexual issues, and many husbands had extra-marital affairs. The worst part was the impact on the next generation, as children of these women are forced to quit school to handle household chores.

When and who will compensate for all these losses?

Vital loss
Hysterectomy is the surgical removal of the uterus but may also involve removal of the cervix. A patient may require 3-12 months for full recovery.

Radical hysterectomy: Removal of cervix, upper vagina, lymph nodes, ovaries and fallopian tube. Recommended in case of cancer.
Total hysterectomy: Removal of uterus and cervix.
Subtotal hysterectomy: Removal of the uterus.


* Excessive blood loss, injury to ureter and bladder
* Cardiovascular disease
* Osteoporosis
* Decline in psychological well-being
* Decline in libido
* Premature death
* Affects the functioning of ovaries in 40 per cent of womenEarly menopause
The average age of menopause in India is 51 years, and removal of ovaries advances it by 3.7 years. Menopause leads to a drop in oestrogen (female hormone) level, causing calcium loss and bone breakdown.

When is hysterectomy needed?

Hysterectomy should be a last resort in conditions such as cancers of the reproductive system, severe infections, persistent vaginal bleeding, uterine prolapse, endometriosis and to prevent further conception.

Before undergoing hysterectomy, one should undergo either a hormone test, sonography or a pap smear to test for cancer.

India: UN Rapporteur witnesses evidence of amended laws which still permit a continuum of VAW Print E-mail

Special Rapporteur on Violence against women, its causes and consequences finalises country mission to India

NEW DELHI (1 May 2013) – At the end of her official country mission to India, the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, Ms. Rashida Manjoo, delivered the following statement:

“I have been mandated by the Human Rights Council to seek and receive information on violence against women, its causes and consequences, and to recommend measures to eliminate all forms of violence against women.

I would like to begin by expressing my thanks to the Government of India for having invited me to visit the country from 22 April to 1 May. The invitation, which was in response to a request from my mandate, was received prior to the events that led to the death of a young woman in Delhi on 16 December 2012. The protest actions and outpouring of sadness and anger; and the extensive coverage by the media, both local and global; has generated a huge focus on the issue of violence against women and girls in India.  This mission has generated country-wide interest, and also, demands for the addressing of this systemic problem as an urgent imperative, at both the State and the non-state levels.

During my visit, I held meetings in New Delhi, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Manipur, and gathered information from other states, including Tamil Nadu. I am grateful to all my interlocutors, including Union and State authorities, National Human Rights Institutions, representatives of civil society organisations, and United Nations agencies. Most importantly, I want to thank the individual women who shared their personal experiences of violence and survival with me. The pain and anguish in the testimonies of loss, dispossession, and various human rights violations, was visceral and often difficult to deal with.

The Government of India has signed and ratified numerous international human rights instruments and has also adopted numerous progressive laws and policies at the Union and State levels. Numerous laws, including amendments to existing laws, have been enacted to address various manifestations of violence against women. Among others, these include: the Indian Penal Code which broadly includes crimes against women. This law includes the crimes of rape, kidnapping and abduction for specified purposes, homicide for dowry, torture, molestation, eve teasing, and the importation of girls, among others. More specific laws on crimes against women include: the Criminal Law Amendment Act 2013, the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prohibition, Prevention and Redressal) Act 2013, the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005, the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act 1986, the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989, the Dowry Prohibition Act 1961, the Commission of Sati Prevention Act 1961, and the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act 1956 among others.

Furthermore, the following Bills are currently under discussion: the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Amendment Bill 2012, the Readjustment of Representation of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in Parliamentary and Assembly Constituencies Bill 2013, the Removal of Homelessness Bill 2013, the Prevention of Female Infanticide Bill 2013, the Abolition of Child Labour Bill 2013, the Child Welfare Bill 2013, the Indecent or Surrogate Advertisements and Remix Songs (Prohibition) Bill 2013 and among others.

At the institutional level, the realisation of the promotion and protection of human rights broadly, and women’s rights and children’s rights specifically, are vested in numerous Union and state level Ministries, Departments, Commissions, Committees and Missions for the empowerment of women. Furthermore, I was informed about numerous programs and policies that have been put in place in recent years to address the issue of violence against women within a human rights and development framework. These include schemes addressing the needs of victims of rape, trafficking, domestic violence, and so on. Some of these schemes address counselling, support, skills development, access to benefits and also to shelters. Public/private partnerships have been forged within different spheres including the police sector. The laws and schemes highlighted above will be analysed and discussed fully in my mission report.

I welcome the Government of India’s speedy response after the rape incident of 16 December. A judicial committee headed by the late Justice Verma was established, and new legislative measures were adopted earlier this year. While this legislative reform is to be commended, it is regrettable that the amendments do not fully reflect the Verma Committee’s recommendations.
It is unfortunate that the opportunity to establish a substantive and specific equality and non-discrimination rights legislative framework for women, to address de facto inequality and discrimination, and to protect and prevent against all forms of violence against women, was lost. The speedy developments and also the adoption of a law and order approach to sexual wrongs, now includes the death penalty for certain crimes against women. This development foreclosed the opportunity to establish a holistic and remedial framework which is underpinned by transformative norms and standards, including those relating to sexual and bodily integrity rights. Furthermore, the approach adopted fails to address the structural and root causes and consequences of violence against women.  

The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act is a positive development in the aspirational goal of protection for victims of family violence. The discrepancy between the provisions of the laws and the effective implementation thereof, whether through the use of the police generally or the Protection Officers in particular, was a recurrent complaint which I heard. Despite provisions intended to offer legal, social and financial assistance to victims, many women are unable to register their complaints. As a result, the vulnerability of women increases, and further, they are also deprived of the benefits prescribed in the law - as proof of registration of cases is required for access to many benefits. Furthermore, prevention of violence, as a core due diligence obligation of the State, does not feature in the implementation of this law.

Despite numerous positive developments, the unfortunate reality is that the rights of many women in India continue to be violated, with impunity as the norm, according to many submissions received. Mediation and compensation measures are often used as redress mechanisms to address cases of violence against women, thus eroding accountability imperatives, and further fostering norms of impunity.

Manifestations of violence against women
Numerous experiences of violence, whether direct or indirect, in different spheres including the home, the community, and in institutions, whether perpetrated by state actors or condoned by the State, was shared with me during the mission. Violence is being experienced in situations of peace, conflict, post-conflict, and displacement among others. The denial of constitutional  rights in general, and the violation of the rights of equality, dignity, bodily integrity, life and access to justice in particular, was a theme that was common in many testimonies. Violence against women as a cause and consequence of de facto inequality and discrimination was also a common theme in numerous submissions received.

Violence against women and girls in India manifests in numerous ways and varies in prevalence and forms based on numerous factors including geographic location. Some manifestations include: sexual violence, domestic violence, caste-based discrimination and violence, dowry related deaths, crimes in the name of honour, witch-hunting, sati, sexual harassment, violence against lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, forced and/or early marriages, deprivation of access to water and basic sanitation, violence against women with disabilities, sexual and reproductive rights violations, sex selection practices, violence in custodial settings and violence in conflict situations, among others. These manifestations of violence are rooted in multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination and inequalities faced by women, and are strongly linked to their social and economic situation. One interlocutor described violence against women and girls as functioning on a continuum that spans the life-cycle from the womb to the tomb.

During my visit, I heard numerous testimonies of many women who are survivors of domestic violence, whether at the hands of their husbands or other family members. Many of these women live in family settings with deeply entrenched norms of patriarchy and cultural practices linked to notions of male superiority and female inferiority. The lack of effective remedies, the failure of the State to protect and prevent violence against women, the economic dependence of many women on the men in their lives, and the social realities of exclusion and marginalization when speaking out, often results in women accepting violence as part of their reality. The current focus by state actors on preserving the unity of the family is manifested in the welfare/social approach and not in the human rights based approach. It does not take into consideration the nature of relationships based on power and powerlessness; of economic and emotional dependency; and also the use of culture, tradition and religion as a defence for abusive behaviour.

Sexual violence and harassment in India is widespread, and is perpetuated in public spaces, in the family or in the workplace. There is a generalized sense of insecurity in public spaces/amenities/transport facilities in particular, and women are often victims of different forms of sexual harassment and assault.

On the issue of conflict-related sexual violence, it is crucial to acknowledge that these violations are occurring at the hands of both state and non-state actors. The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act and the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act (AFSPA) has mostly resulted in impunity for human rights violations broadly, according to information received. The law protects the armed forces from effective prosecution in non-military courts for human rights violations committed against civilian women among others, and it allows for the overriding of due process rights.  Furthermore, in testimonies received, it was clear that the interpretation and implementation of this act, is eroding fundamental rights and freedoms - including freedom of movement, association and peaceful assembly, safety and security, dignity and bodily integrity rights, for women, in Jammu & Kashmir and in the North-Eastern States. Unfortunately in the interests of State security, peaceful and legitimate protests often elicit a military response, which is resulting in both a culture of fear and of resistance within these societies.

In India, women from the Dalit, Adivasi, other Scheduled castes, tribal and indigenous minorities, are often victims of a multiplicity of forms of discrimination and violence. Despite protective legislative and affirmative action laws and policies, their reality is one where they exist at the bottom of the political, economic and social systems, and they experience some of the worst forms of discrimination and oppression - thereby perpetuating their socio-economic vulnerability across generations. They are often forced to live in displacement settings, experience forced labour practices, prostitution and trafficking, and also experience intra-community violations of rights.

In consultations in Manipur, I heard anguished stories from relatives of young women who have disappeared without trace or who were found dead shortly after going missing. The lack of response from the police is the norm in such cases, with the attitude being that these are mostly elopement cases. I am deeply concerned about other consequences of such disappearances of young women, including exposure to sexual abuse, exploitation or trafficking. More generally, many tribal and indigenous women in the region are subjected to continued abuse, ill-treatment and acts of physical and sexual violence. They are denied access to healthcare and other necessary resources, due to the frequency of curfews and blockades imposed on citizens. Moreover, the chronic underdevelopment prevalent in the region, coupled with frequent economic blockades, is having an impact on the overall cost of essential items, and is exacerbating the already vulnerable situation of women and children living in the region.

Customary and religious practices such as child marriages and dowry-related practices, sorcery, honour killings, witch-hunting of women, and communal violence perpetrated against cultural and religious minorities, were highlighted in numerous testimonies. Communal violence, inspired by religious intolerance, does manifest in some parts of India. Indiscriminate attacks by religious majorities on religious minorities, including Christian and Muslim minorities, is frequently explained away by implying that equal aggression was noted on both sides. Also, such violence is sometimes labelled as ‘riots’, thereby denying the lack of security for religious and other minorities, and disregarding their right to equal citizenship. This issue is of particular concern to many, as the wounds of the past are still fresh for women who were beaten, stripped naked, burnt, raped and killed because of their religious identity, in the Gujarat massacre of 2002.

I am also concerned about the declining female sex ratio in India. The deeply entrenched patriarchal social norms, prevailing views of daughter-aversion and son-preference, the dowry-related link, and,  tthe general sense of insecurity in light of high prevalence rates of gender-based violence, is fuelling a significant drop in female births throughout the country. The Indian Government's concern about this issue has resulted in the adoption of policies and schemes. The implementation of such interventions is resulting in the policing of pregnancies through tracking/surveillance systems and is resulting in some cases in the denial of legal abortion rights, thereby violating the sexual and reproductive rights of women.

With regard to domestic workers, I am dismayed by the prevalence of numerous violations faced by these women and girls. Many of them, often migrant and unregistered women, work in servitude and even bondage, in frequently hostile environments; performing work that is undervalued, poorly regulated and low-paid. According to testimonies, they are also denied access to essential services and resources provided by the State, as they lack proper identification, and view this as a barrier to access. They are often the victims of various acts of violence, including sexual harassment and victimization by their employers and others.

I have also been informed that women with disabilities experience numerous forms of violence, including sexual violence, forced sterilization and/or abortions and forced medication without their consent. In addition, their experience of discrimination, exclusion and marginalisation reinforces the need for greater attention and specificity.

India has embarked on a journey of aggressive economic growth and this path is viewed as the route to simultaneously addressing its human development challenges. Despite the inclusion of beneficial provisions for women and children in the Five Year Plan, the impact of economic development policies on women is resulting in forced evictions, landlessness, threats to livelihoods, environmental degradation, and the violation of bodily integrity rights, among other violations. The adverse consequence of resulting migration to urban areas is reflected in the living and work conditions of many of these women and children, for example living in slums or on the streets, engaging in scavenging activities and in sex work etc. Some women have committed suicide; others are frequently exposed to acts of harassment and violence, including sexual assault. It was strongly argued by many interlocutors that India’s pursuit of neo-liberal economic growth must not be pursued at the expense of vulnerable women and children, and their right to a healthy and secure environment.

Numerous human rights mechanisms have addressed the violation of women’s human rights in India. The substance of some relevant recommendations addresses the following issues:
1)    There is  a need for urgent measures to end the alarming decline in sex ratios (CEDAW, CRC)
2)    The negative effect of personal status laws on the achievement of overall gender equality (CRC, CCPR, and CEDAW). Such laws need to be reformed to ensure equality in law (CEDAW).
3)    The social and cultural patterns of discrimination against women require urgent action by the State (CEDAW).
4)    Ensure that all victims of domestic violence are able to benefit from the legislation on domestic violence. Develop a comprehensive plan to combat all forms of violence against women (CEDAW). Domestic violence is endemic. The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act and Section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code must be enforced effectively (CESCR).
5)    The implementation of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, the Public Safety Act and the National Security Act, and the Armed Forces (Jammu & Kashmir) Special Powers Act should be repealed (HRC, SR Summary Executions), as it perpetuates impunity (HRC), and is widely used against Human Rights Defenders (SR HRD).
6)    Grave concerns are noted as regards the continuing atrocities perpetrated against Dalit women. There is a culture of impunity for violations of the rights of Dalit women (CEDAW). Concerns are further expressed for the failure to properly register and investigate complaints of violations against scheduled castes and tribes, the high rate of acquittals, the low conviction rates, and the alarming backlog of cases related to such atrocities (CRC, CEDAW and CERD).
7)    The practice of devadasi is of concern (HRC). The effective enforcement of relevant legislation and the Indian Constitution is required to end this practice (CERD).
8)    To expeditiously enact the proposed Communal Violence (Prevention, Control and Rehabilitation of Victims) Bill, 2005 with the incorporation of: sexual and gender-based crimes, including mass crimes against women perpetrated during communal violence; a comprehensive system of reparations for victims of such crimes; and gender-sensitive victim-centred procedural and evidentiary rules, and to ensure that inaction or complicity of State officials in communal violence be urgently addressed under this legislation.
9)    Grave concern is expressed about the continued existence of women and girls employed as domestic workers and their experiences of sexual abuse (CEDAW).
10)    Harmful practices on women and girls, including forced marriage, dowry and dowry-related violence are of great concern (CEDAW, CRC, CERD, and HRC). Violence and social sanctions due to inter-caste relationships are also of concern (CERD).
11)    The impact of mega-projects on the rights of women should be thoroughly studied, including their impact on tribal and rural communities, and safeguards should be instituted (CEDAW).
12)    Continuing disparities in literacy levels are of concern, in particular the educational status of scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and Muslim women (CEDAW). Effective measures must be adopted to reduce the drop-out rates among Dalit girls (CERD).
13)    More effort is needed to end customary practices which deprive women from underprivileged classes, castes and religious minorities of their rights to human dignity and to non-discrimination (HRC).

I would like to encourage the government of India to ensure specificity in addressing the multiple and intersecting inequalities and discrimination that women face. My mandate has consistently voiced the view that the failure in response and prevention measures stems from Government’s inability and/or unwillingness to acknowledge and address the core structural causes of violence against women. Linkages should be made between violence against women and other systems of oppression and discrimination prevalent within societies. A legislative and policy approach will not bring about substantive change if it is not implemented within a holistic approach that simultaneously targets the empowerment of women, social transformation, and the provision of remedies that ultimately address the continuum of discrimination and violence, and also the pervasive culture of impunity.

My comprehensive findings will be discussed in the report that I will present to the United Nations Human Rights Council in June 2014.”
Ms. Rashida Manjoo (South Africa) was appointed Special Rapporteur on Violence against women, its causes and consequences in June 2009 by the UN Human Rights Council. As Special Rapporteur, she is independent from any government or organization and serves in her individual capacity. Ms. Manjoo also holds a part-time position as a Professor in the Department of Public Law of the University of Cape Town.
 May 2, 2013

“Rape law changes welcome, yet an opportunity lost”

By Aarti Dhar

UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women Rashida Manjoo, addressing the media in New Delhi on Wednesday. (S. Subramanium, The Hindu)

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence Again Women, Rashida Manjoo, on Wednesday regretted that the amendments made to the rape laws in India did not fully reflect the recommendations of the Justice J.S. Verma Committee, set up in the aftermath of the December 16 gang rape that led to the death of a young girl in the national capital.

Addressing reporters at the conclusion of her visit to India, Ms. Manjoo welcomed the Centre’s speedy response after the rape and the legislative reforms based on the Verma Committee recommendations but said it was “an opportunity lost. The Verma Committee was a golden moment to examine whether legislative measures in India were sufficient.” India had an amazing Constitution that granted equality to all but the challenge was to enforce the provisions.

Hoping that India would bring in further legislative measures to address issues such as marital rape, age of consent and rights of transgender people and vulnerable groups, Ms. Manjoo said it was “unfortunate that the opportunity to establish a substantive and specific equality and non-discrimination rights legislative framework for women, to address de facto inequality and discrimination, and to prevent all forms of violence against women, was lost.’’

“Death penalty not a deterrent”
She said the speedy developments and also the adoption of a law and order approach to sexual wrongs, now included the death penalty for certain crimes against women. “This development foreclosed the opportunity to establish a holistic and remedial framework. The new approach fails to address the structural and root causes and consequences of violence against women, she added.

The Special Rapporteur said there was no proof that death penalty was a deterrent. “One needs to look at what purpose it [death penalty] would serve. The need is transformation of society and empowerment of women.’’

Despite the numerous positive developments, the unfortunate reality was that the rights of many women in India continued to be violated with impunity. Ms. Manjoo said she had received numerous submissions to suggest this, and also testimonies to say that mediation and compensation measures were often used as redress mechanisms to address cases of violence against women, thus “eroding accountability imperatives, and further fostering norms of impunity.”

Sexual violence and harassment in India were widespread, and perpetuated in public spaces, in the family and in the workplace.

Armed Forces Act
On the issue of conflict-related sexual violence, Ms. Manjoo said it was crucial to acknowledge that these violations occurred at the hands of both state and non-state actors.

The Special Rapporteur’s report would be officially submitted to the United Nation’s Human Rights Council in June 2014.
Washington, DC ~ Wednesday, May 1, 2013

UN rapporteur: India’s laws not tough enough on violence against women

By Agence France-Presse

India’s new sex crime laws do not go far enough to protect women or tackle gender inequality, the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women said on Wednesday.

The legislation was passed following the fatal gang rape of a student on a Delhi bus in mid-December that sparked nationwide demonstrations over the lack of safety for women.

New measures passed by Indian lawmakers in March increased punishments for sex offenders to include the death penalty if a victim dies, and broadened the definition of sexual assault.

But Rashida Manjoo, the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against women, said the laws were still not tough enough.

She told a news conference it was unfortunate that the opportunity to establish a substantive framework “to protect and prevent against all forms of violence against women, was lost”.

Her comments echoed those of other Indian women’s activists who praised the intent of the legislation but said it still had huge holes.

Campaigners are unhappy about lawmakers’ refusal to criminalise marital rape or increase the punishment for acid attacks on women from a minimum seven-year jail term.

The UN official, who toured several Indian states to obtain first-hand reports about violence against women, said she would release her findings to the world body next year.

She said she had heard on her 10-day visit about “sexual violence, domestic violence, cast-based discrimination and violence, dowry related deaths, crimes in the name of honour” and other offences.

She quoted one person on her trip as describing violence against women as spanning the “life cycle from womb to the tomb”.

Her trip came in the wake of a call in December by UN rights chief Navi Pillay for India to help rid itself of the “scourge” of rape after the 23-year-old bus victim died of injuries inflicted by six drunken men.

Manjoo said demonstrations in the wake of her death seemed not to have had any effect in curbing sex crimes.

“Sexual violence and harassment in India is (still) widespread, and is perpetuated in public spaces, in the family or in the workplace,” she said.

“There is a generalised sense of insecurity in public spaces, amenities, transport facilities in particular, and women are often victims of different forms of sexual harassment and assault.”

A total of 228,650 incidents of crime against women were reported in India during 2011 as compared to 213,585 the previous year, according to the latest figures of the government’s National Crime Records Bureau.

Manjoo said women belonging to minority Muslim and Christian communities are also subjected to “indiscriminate attacks” during religious rioting in India.

“This issue is of particular concern to many as the wounds of the past are still fresh for women who were beaten, stripped naked, burnt, raped and killed because of their religious identity in the Gujarat riots of 2002,” she said.

The anti-Muslim riots in the western state left more than 2,000 mainly Muslim people dead in an orgy of violence and arson, according to rights groups. The Gujarat government puts the death toll at about 1,000.

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