Recent Resources for Feminists
India: Amidst Rape Pandemic, female empowerment a lost cause, and victim rehab of scant concern Print E-mail

 Wednesday September 4 2013

Rape victims ­ from anonymity to non-entity

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More laws, less justice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Justice in a vacuum

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

 

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

 Wednesday September 4 2013

Pakistani intelligence plotted to kill Asma Jahangir in India: Post

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Greg Miller, Craig Whitlock and Barton Gellman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


India: Ministry labels PATH’s Gates Foundation-funded HPV vaccine trials a sordid & unethical affair Print E-mail


 September 2, 2013


It’s a PATH of violations, all the way to vaccine trials: House panel

Committee questions roles of ICMR, Drug Controller in the “intriguing” 2010 episode

By Aarti Dhar

Read the full report from India's MINISTRY OF HEALTH & FAMILY WELFARE HERE

Accusing the international organisation PATH (Programme for Appropriate Technology in Health) of exploiting with impunity the loopholes in the system during a trial of Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines, a parliamentary panel has also questioned the roles of the Indian Council of Medical Research and the Drug Controller-General of India in the entire episode.

The issue pertains to trials conducted by two U.S.-based pharmaceutical companies through PATH on tribal school girls in Khammam district in Andhra Pradesh and Vadodara in Gujarat in 2010. The trials were stopped only after the matter received media attention following the death of seven girls.

In its report on “Alleged Irregularities in the Conduct of Studies using HPV Vaccines by PATH in India” presented to Parliament, the committee has said ICMR representatives apparently acted at the behest of PATH in promoting the interests of the vaccine manufacturers, and recommended that the Health Ministry review the activities of the functionaries of the Council involved in the PATH project

As for the DCGI, the approvals of clinical trials, marketing approval and import licences by the agency “appear to be irregular” and its role “in this entire matter should also be inquired into.”

The Department of Health Research/ICMR “have completely failed to perform their mandated role and responsibility as the apex body for medical research in the country. Rather, in their over-enthusiasm to act as a willing facilitator of the machinations of PATH, they have even transgressed into the domain of other agencies which deserves the strongest condemnation and strictest action against them.”

The committee failed to understand why the ICMR “took so much interest and initiative in this project when the safety, efficacy and introduction of vaccines in India are handled by the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation.”

How could the ICMR commit itself to supporting “the use of the HPV vaccine” in an MoU signed in 2007, even before it was approved for use in the country, which actually happened in 2008? The committee also questioned the ICMR’s decision to commit itself to promoting the drug for inclusion in the Universal Immunisation Programme before any independent study on its utility and rationale of inclusion in the UIP was undertaken.

Describing the entire matter as “very intriguing and fishy,” the committee said the choice of countries and population groups (India, Vietnam, Uganda and Peru); the monopolistic nature, at that point of time, of the product being pushed; the unlimited market potential and opportunities in the universal immunisation programmes of the respective countries “are all pointers to a well-planned scheme to commercially exploit a situation.”

Had PATH been successful in getting the HPV vaccine included in the universal immunisation programme of the countries concerned, windfall profits would have been generated for the manufacturer(s) by way of automatic sale, the committee said. It asked the government to take up the matter with these countries through diplomatic channels.

Flouting ethics
Drawing attention to gross violation of ethics during the conduct of trials, the committee members said that in Andhra Pradesh out of 9,543 consent forms, 1,948 had thumb impressions, while hostel wardens signed 2,763 others. In Gujarat, out of 6,217 forms, 3,944 had thumb impressions. The data revealed that a very large number of parents/guardians were illiterate and could not even write in their local language, Telugu or Gujarati.

It was shocking to find from one of the reports that out of 100 consent forms for Andhra Pradesh, project signatures of witnesses were missing in 69 forms. In many forms there were no dates. One particular person had signed seven forms. In fact, the legality of the State government directing headmasters of all private/government/ashram/schools to sign the consent forms on behalf of parents/guardians was highly questionable. The absence of photographs of parents/guardians/wardens on consent forms and of signatures of investigators, the fact that signatures of parents/guardians did not match with their names; and the date of vaccination being much earlier than the date of signature of parents/guardian in the consent forms spoke of grave irregularities, the report said.

The committee said PATH should be made accountable and the government should take appropriate steps in the matter, including legal action against it for breach of laws of the land and possible violations of laws of the country of its origin.

Describing this act of the PATH as a clear-cut violation of human rights and case of child abuse, the Committee has recommended that the National Human Rights Commission and the National Commission for Protection of Children Rights take up this matter. The National Commission for Women should also take suo motu cognisance of this case as all the poor and hapless subjects were female.

The Health Ministry should report the violations indulged in by PATH to the World Health Organisation and the United Nations Children’s Fund so as to ensure that appropriate remedial action was initiated worldwide, the committee said.

~~~~~~~~~~
 Monday September 2, 2013

BREAKING NEWS: US-Based Agency PATH Violated Law During HPV Vaccine Trials in India

By: Christina England

Indian Parliament Writes Scathing Report Concerning The Conduct of PATH During HPV Vaccine Trials.

On 30th August 2013, The Mail India Online, reported that the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) had allegedly played hand in glove with the US NGO, PATH, to promote the commercial interests of both cervical cancer vaccine manufacturers, which they say were linked to the deaths of several young Indian girls.

The Mail stated that the Indian Parliamentary panel had found the ICMR guilty of lending its platform to PATH, in an "improper and unlawful manner." [1]

On the same day as the Mail's article was published, an extremely damning document was released by the Indian Parliament, entitled: Seventy Second Report on Alleged Irregularities In The Conduct Of Studies Using Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) Vaccine By PATH In India, supporting their claims. [2]

The Parliamentary report, stated that the committee had found the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), guilty of helping the US NGO, PATH (Programme for Appropriate Technology in Health), facilitate studies relating to the cervical cancer vaccine on young girls, endangering their lives.

The forty-three-page report clearly stated that PATH's presence in India had been illegal.

Section 1.1 of the report stated that:
"During March, 2010 the entire world was shocked by the media reports about the deaths of some female children and adolescents in Khammam district of Andhra Pradesh after being administered Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccines. The vaccination trials were carried out by an American agency viz. Programme for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH). The project was reportedly funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, an American charity.
The committee stated that:
"Several questions were asked and concerns expressed in the media and well meaning quarters on the role of government agencies including Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) in approving and facilitating the trials, which was against all laws of the land and even international ethical norms and rules; misuse of government funds, man-power facilities and infrastructure for the private project of dubious nature; use of logo of Natural Rural Health Mission (NRHM), an official programme of the Union Government during these vaccination drives to give it respectability and official endorsement ; and above all the blatant violation by PATH of all regulatory and ethical norms laid down by the Government of India for the purpose as also possible violations of such norms prescribed and very scrupulously enforced in the Country of its origin viz. United States of America."
The committee were extremely scathing of PATH's activities, stating that it was their belief that in trying to get the HPV vaccination included into the universal immunization programmes, PATH had resorted to an element of subterfuge calling the clinical trials by several different names including Observational Studies and Demonstration Projects. The committee stated that in doing so. PATH had severely jeopardised the safety and well being of young girls and adolescents by using self-determined and self-servicing nomenclature which was not only highly deplorable but a serious breach of the law of the land.

Furthermore, the Indian parliament stated that it had been clear from as far back as October-November 2006, that PATH's main objective was to generate evidence supporting the introduction of the HPV vaccine Gardasil being included into the Indian government-funded immunization program.

However, PATH was not the only organization criticized; the report also criticized several others including the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI), stating:
"The Committee's examination has proved that DCGI has also played a very questionable role in the entire matter. Initially, it took a call that since human subjects, as part of the studies, were receiving invasive intervention like immunization, clinical trials rules must be enforced. However, it remained a silent spectator thereafter, even when its own rules and regulations were being so fragrantly violated. The approvals of clinical trials, marketing approval and import licences by DCGI appear to be irregular. Therefore, the role of the DCGI in this entire matter should also be inquired into."
Not only did the committee find clear cases of conflicts of interest they also found that many of the consent forms for the vaccination had been forged. The forms were supposed to be signed by a parent or guardian if the subject was under the age of consent. However, the report stated:
"In the case of Andhra Pradesh 9,543 forms were signed, 1,948 had thumb impressions while hostel warden had signed 2,763 forms."
Of course this could not have come sooner for the three brave activists and campaigners who in January 2013, submitted a Writ Petition to the Supreme Courts of India, criticizing these very same organizations. I say this because their case was heard today, Monday 2nd September, just three days after this damning report was released.

Background to This Case
For those of you who have little or no knowledge of the Writ Petition here is a little background information.

In January 2013, I wrote an article titled, The Writ Petition, documenting the historical moment when activists Kalpana Mehta and Nalini Bhanot, along with Dr. Rukmini Rao, President of the Gramya Resource Centre for Women in India, filed a writ petition with the Supreme Court of India under Article 32 of The Constitution of India for Women. The petition was filed against:
  • Drug Controller General of India,
  • Indian Council of Medical Research, State of Andhra Pradesh,
  • State of Gujarat,
  • PATH International,
  • GlaxoSmithKline Asia Private Limited,
  • MSD Pharmaceuticals Private Limited.
The petition outlined a series of serious allegations regarding the HPV vaccines Gardasil® and Cervarix®. Petitioners Kalpana Mehta, Nalini Bhanot and Dr. Rukmini Rao reported that the two HPV vaccines were illegally brought into the states of Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat and subsequently administered to thousands of young, vulnerable Indian children before the vaccines were known to be safe.

The three Petitioners told the court that even though the Indian government and the above organizations knew the HPV vaccines were of dubious value and of speculative benefits, they continued to allow a trial using both the Gardasil® and Cervarix® vaccines without regard to the potential endangerment of the lives of adolescent girls.

To read the complete story concerning this historical event please refer to reference [3]

After attending court today, Kalpana Mehta forwarded me the following press release:
A step forward in redressing of woes of 24000 victims of PATH-ICMR misadventure

A trial done by PATH with HPV vaccines on 24000 girls in Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat has been termed a "sordid incident" by the Parliamentary Standing Committee for Health and Family Welfare that found the entire matter "very intriguing and fishy". This trial has left in its trail at least 1200 girls in the two states with chronic health problems. A writ petition was filed before the Supreme Court praying for the identification of the health problems of these girls and provision of treatment, along with other prayers.

Notices were issued to the Government of India and the Drugs Controller by the Supreme Court in January 2013 but neither has bothered to file a reply. In this callous delay in court proceedings, the 72nd report of the Standing Committee released last week has proved to be a boon in disguise. The concerned officials from the ministry, ICMR and the DCGI, and also from PATH appeared before the Standing Committee but their explanations cut no ice.

This report was placed before the judges today and senior advocate Colin Gonsalves representing the petitioners reiterated the misery of the girls who are likely to be afflicted with serious conditions like convulsions, asthma, central demyelinating diseases, acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, idiopathic thrombopenia purpura, etc.; autoimmune conditions like thyroiditis and rheumatoid arthritis; and also by mental ailments that are serious enough to lead to suicides. The Standing committee has also stated that HPV vaccine as a possible, if not probable, cause of suicidal ideation cannot be ruled out.

Since the filing of the main petition many new facts about these vaccines and their serious health implications have come to light. Tomljenovic and Shaw examined post-mortem brain tissue specimens from two young women who suffered from cerebral vasculitis-type symptoms following vaccination with the HPV vaccine Gardasil and concluded "Our study suggests that HPV vaccines containing HPV-16L1 antigens pose an inherent risk for triggering potentially fatal autoimmune vasculopathies." It should be known that cerebral vasculitis is a serious disease which typically results in fatal outcomes when undiagnosed and left untreated. Many of the symptoms following HPV vaccination are indicative of cerebral vasculitis such as intense persistent migraines, syncope, seizures, tremors and tingling, myalgia, locomotor abnormalities, psychotic symptoms and cognitive deficits.

On 20 March 2013, the United States based Judicial Watch announced that, it has received documents from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) revealing that its National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) has awarded $5,877,710 (US dollars) to 49 victims including two deaths in claims made against the highly controversial HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccines.

Meanwhile a fact finding mission undertaken by NGO's in the project areas in Gujarat in June 2013 indicated that many of the girls have already got married and moved away making it difficult to trace and treat them.

The petitioners had therefore asked by way of interim relief that all the vaccinated girls be examined by qualified medical practitioners to ascertain their health status and provide appropriate medical care.

Beyond these 24000 girls the other consumers of the two vaccines Gardasil and Cervarix are also at risk because the two companies have not bothered to update their product information to include serious side effects as they are emerging and being included in the inserts of other countries.

Also countries abroad both companies provide information to the patients/users that informs them of the effectiveness, potential problems and symptoms for which the users should approach a medical facility. The petitioners felt that this information is also the right of Indian patients, girls, and women who can then make a rational choice and take timely decision to seek medical care.

Nalini Bhanot and Kalpana Mehta Tel: 9899905851 and 09425056985

PATH Had Suprisingly Little To Say

PATH responded to the parliamentary report by stating the following on their website:

"Today, the Indian Parliament's Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare released a report critical of a cervical cancer vaccine demonstration project conducted in India from 2009 to 2010 through a collaboration among PATH, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), and the state governments of Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat.

PATH welcomes public discussion about the role of vaccines in preventing life-threatening diseases such as cervical cancer, and we thank the committee members for their time and effort in reviewing this matter. We support the adoption of reasonable measures to further strengthen and clarify protections for individuals participating in research projects. However, we are troubled by the report's inaccurate characterization of this important work.

PATH, an international nonprofit organization, is committed to meeting the highest scientific, ethical, and legal standards in our work and to contributing our experience and expertise to address the burden of cervical cancer through transformative innovations such as vaccines. The demonstration project in India was part of a four-country project to explore suitable vaccine delivery strategies and help provide evidence for national health authorities to make informed decisions about the potential benefits and challenges of introducing vaccines against human papillomavirus (HPV), the primary cause of cervical cancer." [4]

Conclusion
After reading the Indian parliamentary report, it is clear that PATH acted illegally and in doing so endangered the lives of thousands of innocent Indian girls, many as young as fourteen, proving that once again, we have evidence that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have funded a project of dubious scientific and health value.

Ever since the two HPV vaccines Gardasil and Cervarix hit the market, there have been continual reports of deaths and disabilities caused by the vaccines. Despite mounting evidence, however, governments from around the world have refused to take action and ban these dangerous vaccines.

Thanks to the courage of Kalpana Mehta, Nalini Bhanot and the President of the Gramya Resource Centre for Women in India, Dr. Rukmini Rao, however, this may be all set to change very soon.

References
1. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/indiahome/indianews/article-2407569/Indian-Council-Medical-Research-endorsed-illegal-US-vaccine.html#ixzz2debpyUSM

2. http://164.100.47.5/newcommittee/reports/EnglishCommittees/Committee%20on%20Health%20and%20Family%20Welfare/72.pdf

3. http://weeklyblitz.net/2013/04/the-writ-petition/

4. http://www.path.org/news/press-room/642/
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Christina was born and educated in London, U.K. She received an A Level in Psychology and a BTEC in Learning Disabilities. She has spent many years researching vaccines and adverse reactions. She has an HND in journalism and media and is currently writing for the American Chronicle, the Weekly Blitz and Vaccination Truth on immunization safety and efficacy.

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 Tuesday September 3 2013

House panel slams govt bodies over clinical trials

DHNS

New Delhi: A parliamentary panel has strongly reprimanded two leading central agencies – the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) – for violating every rule in the book to go ahead with an illegal trial that would have benefited only the vaccine's manufacturers.

Intended to protect young girls against cervical cancer caused by the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), the 2009 trial was carried out by Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat governments with the approval of the ICMR and DCGI.

In the wake of several allegations of serious violation of ethical norms and the death of girls receiving the vaccine, the Centre cancelled the trial midway and instituted an inquiry, which identified “several deficiencies in the planning and implementation of the project” in its final report.

Surprisingly, the probe panel did not fix the accountability on any individual, attracting the wrath of the House panel that submitted its report on August 30.

Probe panel member Sunita Mittal, a former professor at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi, had a “conflict of interest” as one of the HPV vaccine-manufacturing firms was sponsoring one of her research projects.

Both the DCGI and ICMR were pulled up for dereliction of duty, because of which poor and illiterate girls were exposed to the illegal clinical trial. No consent was obtained from the girls and their parents.

The ICMR went to the extent of committing itself to support “use of the HPV vaccine" in a 2007 agreement, even before the vaccine was approved for use in the country, which actually happened in 2008.

The apex medical research body acted as a “willing facilitator to the machinations of PATH”, which deserved the strongest condemnation and strictest action. The government's highest advisory body on vaccines, the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI), was bypassed.

The DCGI too played a questionable role. “It remained a silent spectator thereafter, even when its own rules and regulations were being so flagrantly violated. The approval of clinical trials, marketing approval and import licences by the DCGI appear to be irregular. The role of the DCGI should be probed,” suggests the panel.

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Saturday August 28 2013

Panel raps government over clinical trials, lapses

Rupali Mukherjee, TNN

MUMBAI: In a further indication of the rot in the country's healthcare system, a parliamentary panel has rapped the government for gross irregularities in drug trials, under-reporting and lapses in monitoring serious adverse events and lethargy in safeguarding health, in studies on cervical cancer prevention vaccine by a US-based non-governmental agency. Charging the government for inaction, the parliamentary committee on health says in a report that the issue has been diluted with no accountability fixed on erring officials for serious violations committed in the studies which led to the death of hapless tribal children three years back.

Raising concern on the manner in which the US NGO, PATH (Programme for Appropriate Technology in Health) set up office in the country, the panel says it conducted clinical trials for HPV vaccines under the garb of "observational project" by violating all guidelines.

The trials were suspended following deaths of five girls in Andhra Pradesh, and two deaths in Gujarat in 2009-2010 after being administered the HPV vaccines. The vaccines were provided by two pharmaceutical companies - Merck and GlaxoSmithKline - through PATH, during studies carried out in collaboration with government agency, Indian Council of Medical Research and the states. The project was reportedly funded by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The sole aim of PATH, the 72nd report on Alleged irregularities in the conduct of studies using Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine says, was to "promote the commercial interests'' of the manufacturers, who would have benefitted if it was successful in getting the HPV vaccine included in the government-run Universal Immunisation Programme.

The report submitted in the Parliament on Friday comes at a time when the pharma industry has been complaining of inordinate government delays in approvals of drug trials involving human subjects.

Terming it "a serious breach of trust by any entity", and a "violation of human rights of these girl children who were mostly unaware of the implications'', the panel has asked the government to report the violations to international bodies like World Health Organisation and UNICEF. It has also asked the ministry of health to take up the matter through the ministry of external affairs with the US government so as to ensure appropriate action is taken against PATH.

The report has pulled up the drugs controller general as well as Indian Council of Medical Research. It says DCGI played a "questionable role'', and "remained a silent spectator, even when its own regulations were being violated", while "approvals of clinical trials, marketing approvals and import licenses appear to be irregular".Though the issue was reported after the deaths in 2010, this report details the role of PATH, involvement of regulatory agencies like ICMR and DCGI, lapses in drug side-effects, conflict of interest and the various loop-holes in the system.

The panel says that ICMR instead of ensuring ethical standards in research studies, apparently acted at the behest of PATH in promoting the interests of HPV manufacturers, and that it should have taken the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (NTAGI), on board. The safety, efficacy and introduction of vaccines is handled by NTAGI.

Significantly, not only were the adverse events under-reported and not monitored during the studies, the committee noted that HPV vaccine as a possible, if not probable cause of suicidal ideation.

According to approvals given to the companies, vaccines were given to children irrespective of age in the case of Merck's Gardasil vaccine, while permission was given to use GSK's Cervarix vaccine in children (10-14 years), while clinical trials had been conducted on subjects in the age-group of 18-35 years. Thus the safety and well-being of subjects were completely jeopardized, the report adds.

The panel has sought further tightening of regulations, action against the wrong-doers, strict monitoring of serious adverse events during drug trials through an independent mechanism, and government agencies ICMR and DCGI to strictly adhere to regulations, guidelines and methodology like informed consent from subjects. The committee found glaring discrepancies in the informed consent taken from subjects who were given the vaccine.
 

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June 7 2006

Gates Funds New HPV Vaccine Program at PATH

On June 5th, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced a five-year, $27.8 million grant to PATH for program research in India, Peru, Uganda, and Vietnam intended to inform country decisions about HPV vaccine introduction to prevent cervical cancer. PATH will help plan for and pilot introduction in the four countries, with the goal of informing regional and global vaccine introduction efforts and international financing plans. They will work in partnership with the national governments, Merck, and GlaxoSmithKline and will coordinate closely with other key stakeholders including the World Health Organization, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, Harvard University, and the Catalonian Institute of Oncology.

India: Calls for Zero Tolerance to all crime, as Criminal Law Amendment Act 2013 fails to stem VAW Print E-mail

Tuesday August 27, 2013

Needed, a zero-tolerance approach

With the rising graph of crimes against women, it is imperative to lay more focus on prevention strategies

By Aruti Nayar

A s one watches the news about the rape of a young 22-year-old photo journalist in Mumbai, and the television debates that follow, one feels a sense of having heard it and seen it before. With a sickening feeling in the pit of the stomach you feel nothing, it seems nothing at all, has changed and nothing ever will. The same pious platitudes, the same rhetoric, the same banal arguments and blamegame. It seems an action replay of the way events had unfolded post-Nirbhaya rape case that, it appeared then, had jolted the middle class out of its cocoon. This time it has occurred in Mumbai, a metropolis which is generally considered safe for women where they could walk around with a taken-for-granted freedom and without fear. Women did not feel threatened because Mumbai treated them as equals. Not any more.

Protesters raise slogans during a demonstration against the rape of a photojournalist by five men inside an abandoned textile mill, in Mumbai on August 23. The attack triggered protests and an outcry on social media, with many people shocked that it took place in Mumbai, widely considered as a safe city for women. (Reuters)

What is worrisome is that we might become so immune to the news of ghastly gang rapes, each more revolting than the other, and our responses become so atrophied that even the most gruesome crimes will not make a dent into our conscience (and consciousness). TV debates and long-winded analyses generate more heat than solutions. After venting out our anger, fears and frustrations we feel satisfied that we, the complacent middle class, have salvaged our conscience.

What about effective policing?
More stringent laws need not translate into more convictions and act as a deterrent. Even eight months after the gruesome Delhi rape case, there has been no conviction, despite it being a fast-track court. The onus on safety is on the women themselves as proved by many studies (see box). What needs to be put in place is effective policing and neighbourhood safety measures, manning police kiosks at night and most important of all, preparing a data base of criminals to track hardened criminals and keep tabs on their migration and anti-social activities. The government has failed abysmally to put in place a prevention mechanism. Petty thefts flourish with the tacit approval of the police and the “subculture” of a metropolis often perceived as safe bustles with crimes that go undetected. No punishment for petty crimes allows bigger, more heinous crimes to flourish with impunity. A big city is bound to afford greater anonymity to its inhabitants and it is this that offers a ‘hideout’ to criminals. The area where the Mumbai incident occurred was frequented by drug peddlers and addicts. It is difficult to believe that the police, just a short distance away, was oblivious to the den. One of the most effective ideas about crime prevention to come out in recent years is the “broken window theory.” According to this theory, small acts of deviance: littering, graffiti, broken windows, will, if ignored, escalate into more serious crime. So today’s petty thief, if allowed a free run, can become a hardened rapist tomorrow.

Notions of masculinity
The notion that law does not catch up with the deviant, who is often glorified, is also reinforced by Bollywood. Similarly, if one were to go by rules of Bollywood, that occupies so much of mental and psychological space in our collective consciousness, a woman is an object to be wooed and ‘acquired,’ often aggressively. Our film industry, despite a host of fresh ideas and out-of-the-box storylines, reinforces the macho hero who can use force to woo the heroine and never takes a no for a no. Objectification of women in urban spaces where kinship markers have already dissolved and a state of anomie prevails, makes them objects of fantasy as well as passive and powerless recepients on whom it is perfectly acceptable to vent out aggression and frustration. Add to that our flawed notions of masculinity. We need to confront our construction of masculinity. Our society constructs masculinity in a way that valorises aggression and violence in men. We need to teach our boys differently and this must begin at the level of schools. Sensitivity and respect for girls and women should be taught and demonstrated at home. We do not need to worship our women, let’s just treat them like human beings who deserve a humane treatment.

Reinforcing confidence

As young women come out in large numbers and join the work force as professionals, we cannot afford to instil fear into their hearts and for this the state cannot abdicate its responsibility. The onus is on the state to afford safe public spaces to its citizens. For this even the youth needs to move beyond Facebook activism and become more proactive. After all they have more stakes in the future of the country, unlike the fossilised and defunct political class that only works for its own survival as well as perpetuation. Demonstrating a zero-tolerance for rape and crimes against women, even if the offender is a highly placed politician or an influential official would go a long way in ensuring compliance with law and serve the cause of justice more than a host of legislative measures. Once the message goes out that even the rich, the powerful and the politically well-connected are not a class apart and cannot escape the noose of the law if they commit a crime against women, it will be an effective deterrent. The reason is notions of caste, hierarchy and entitlement due to being a part of the power structure are deeply embedded in the psyche and the collective consciousness of the average Indian.

We need much more than mere statistics that tell us how much crime against women has risen or oft-repeated theories of what leads to such horrendous crimes being bandied about. All most of us ask for is a safe space for all citizens, which includes children, women and girls. The din of empty talk and even more empty promises should not drown the silent screams of suffering women.

Safe City
The 2010 study, ‘Safe City Free of Violence Against Women and Girls’ – brought out by Jagori, a women’s resource group, revealed that women of all classes had to contend with harassment as part of their daily lives, with young girls and women being particularly vulnerable. It also showed that the burden of ensuring safety remained on the women themselves. They had to somehow try and ensure their own security by not visiting certain places, staying indoors after dark, and so on. While the study focused on Delhi, it could have been speaking for any Indian city anywhere

Hope this is a one-off incident
?The Mumbai gang rape incident made my heart sink. Apart from the horror of the crime on its own, the next worse thing was that it happened in Mumbai. You just don't associate such a horrid crime with the cultural fabric that Mumbai possesses. What has been absolutely welcoming about Mumbai's culture is the agnosticism it has towards its people's eccentricities. The autorickshaw driver who would cite the Bhagavadgita in his conversation, our awesome internet service provider who'd operate out of a thatched shanty, the police constable who would sit me down and educate me about insurance policies, the LGBTI filmmakers ­ you had to be good at what you did and that was it. Gender, unlike in the North of the country, was the least of the issues you would have to deal with. Why, if you stared at women, they stared back at you! The police have done their job well it seems. There has been the requisite amount of outrage in the media. The court trials would probably and hopefully be swift. But is Mumbai now safe for women? I hope this turns out to be a one-off incident. - Mohit Sharma, Demand Forecasting Analyst for the Pharmaceutical sector, Aspect Ratio, Pune

Urban milieu not gender equal
What does the gang rape of a young woman photographer in an Indian metropolis, considered the country's most progressive and modern, tell us about ourselves? It points, first of all, to an urban milieu that does not recognise the principle of gender equality; a society that still has not internalised the principle of every person's right to free movement and bodily integrity. Secondly, it reflects that the more our urban centres grow ­ bursting as they are with malls, markets and traffic-clogged streets ­ the less secure they are becoming for those who inhabit them.

Responding to the social crisis demands rational solutions, not an ostrich-like retreat into medievalism. Circumscribing the lives of women by laying down restrictions in terms of dress, location or activity cannot be the answer. Instead we need to make our public spaces more safe ­ in the way they are designed, in the way city infrastructure and public transport function, and in the way everybody in the city has a sense of ownership of that urban space.

What is at stake, after all, is not just women's safety, but the safety of everyone living in it. As one Delhi-based architect and town planner put it, "We have to stop seeing the world as an environment for the adult male. The time has come in urban India to retrofit our urban spaces to conform to the principles of equity." - Pamela Philipose, Director, Women's Feature Service, New Delhi

After all, Mumbai is in India
  "So Mumbai's not safe any more either," is what everyone in the country seems to be saying. I wonder if I sense some schadenfreude (pleasure derived from others' misery) there. I've lived in Delhi and endured its haunting and unrelenting male gaze. Mumbai's has perhaps been more discreet. Women here too avoid travelling in lonely train coaches but they are able to stroll on Marine Drive at midnight. Mumbai's not perfect and neither are its people. It's a city, at the moment, grieving for the tragedy that's happened and, hopefully, a city that will stand up and not let this happen again. Having lived here for over six years I have encountered my set of creeps but it's not a daily struggle like most of India is. I will not be leaving the city in a hurry. It's made me feel safer than others. But that doesn't mean I'm totally safe. After all, Mumbai is as much a part of the India that thinks the woman always deserves it.- Sonal Jhujj, Strategy Planner, Mudra Communications, Mumbai

Community must pitch in
The Criminal Law Amendment Act 2013 has brought in a stronger, a more deterrent law for dealing with incidents /crimes of sexual assault on women, primarily in response to the Delhi rape case. Deterrence is just one way of dealing with crime and harsher punishments are not the only solution. The damage to the victims also has to be healed on priority. Sadly, all these responses come after an incident takes place. It is easier to blame the police after such an incident takes place. The focus should be on crime-prevention strategies to deal with crimes against women at the primary and secondary levels. Sole reliance on the criminal justice system is no solution to crime. Campaigns for a safe city need community involvement. Causes of crime are complex and cumulative and may be embedded in personal and social histories of offenders.We have to engage men in violence prevention and broaden and diversify our responses to violence against women. Crime is best controlled with community as the primary controller and active participant, with no silent bystanders.- Upneet Lalli, Deputy Director, Institution of Correctional Administration, Chandigarh

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 Wednesday August 28 2013

A task only half finished

By Aparna Viswanathan

The fact that there is still no verdict in the Delhi rape trial is a sobering reminder that the Criminal Law Amendment Act 2013 is insufficient reform

Over eight months have passed since the horrific events of December 16, 2012, yet the wave of rapes still rage across the nation. The spring and summer of 2013 were marred by barbaric events such as the rape of five-year-old girls in Delhi and Gurgaon, the acid attack on a young woman getting off a train in Mumbai, the gruesome rape and murder of a 20-year-old college girl in Kolkata, and, most recently, the gang rape of a photo journalist in Mumbai as well as countless other incidents. Despite the recurring frequency of these crimes, the public discourse on law reform has come to a halt following the passage of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2013 in April. While the Act certainly introduced long, overdue changes in the law, it is but a first step in the long journey to ending violence against women in India through criminal law, police reforms and curricular reforms intended to change the mentality of future generations. The necessity of further reforms to criminal procedure is glaringly evident from the fact that, although six fast track courts were set up, the verdict in the Delhi rape trial still has not been passed even after eight months of litigation.

Overdue changes
The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2013 (“Act”) took the historic step of amending the Indian Penal Code (IPC) to provide for the new offences of rape causing death or a vegetative state, sexual intercourse by a person in authority, gang rape and repeat offences. Importantly, the Act also introduced several other new offences such as causing grievous hurt through acid attacks, sexual harassment, use of criminal force on a woman with intent to disrobe, voyeurism and stalking. Importantly, the Act further amended the IPC to criminalise the failure of a public servant to obey directions under law. It has also made the non-treatment of a rape victim by any public or private hospital an offence. While these amendments to the IPC constitute a major legislative stride forward, corresponding steps forward have not been taken in the amendment of criminal procedure.

The Act amended the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) to provide for a woman officer to record evidence from a woman against whom certain offences have been committed. If the victim of such offences has been mentally or physically disabled, temporarily or permanently, then the woman officer must record the evidence at the victim’s residence or the victim’s place of choice. These requirements apply to offences such as causing voluntarily, grievous hurt by the use of acid, sexual harassment, assault or use of criminal force against a woman with intent to disrobe, voyeurism, stalking, rape, gang rape, sexual intercourse by a person in authority, and a word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman. The CrPC was further amended to provide for a court to ensure that when the evidence of a victim of rape below 18 years has to be recorded, the accused does not confront the victim. However, many procedural issues critical to making the criminal justice system functional in the case of rape and serving as a deterrent against further crime have not been addressed by the Act.

Areas to be looked into
The starting point is of course the registration of the FIR itself. The courts are divided over whether the police have an obligation or not by law to investigate allegations of rape before registering an FIR. If a police investigation has to take place before the registration of an FIR, delays will inevitably occur and the failure to register FIRs in rape cases will continue. Moreover, the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems (CCTNS), an ambitious Rs.2,000 crore project of the Home Ministry, which would enable at least the e-filing of FIRs, is expected to be implemented only in 2015.

The second procedural issue is fast track courts. Section 309 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), as amended by the Act, provides that the trial of offences under Section 376 (rape) and Sections 376A-D (covering punishment for causing death or resulting in persistent vegetative state of the victim, sexual intercourse by husband upon his wife during separation, sexual intercourse by a person in authority and gang rape) must be completed within two months from the date of filing the charge sheet. However, the Delhi rape case, prosecuted in a fast track court, has already taken over eight months. Therefore, procedural rules must be examined including the grounds for an order of in camera proceedings. They are usually ordered only where a matter of national security is involved or a party asserts that communications are privileged. In camera proceedings are not ordered on the grounds that the accused’s safety is at risk as in the Delhi case. Indeed, the court’s order of in camera proceedings in this case has resulted in it being secluded from media attention, thereby reducing public pressure for further reforms.

Samaritans & jurisdiction
A third issue is the protection of good Samaritans. The CrPC must be amended to provide that members of the public who act as good Samaritans should not be treated as wrongdoers and unnecessarily questioned or harassed by the police. The current situation in which bystanders do not help victims of crime reflects a sad state of societal affairs and must be addressed.

While the Act has made limited changes to criminal procedure, the police have been left out of legislative reforms altogether. The only reforms were those announced by the then Delhi Police Commissioner, Neeraj Kumar, on January 18, 2013, including that Zero First Information Reports (FIR) may be registered on the basis of a woman’s statement at any police station irrespective of jurisdiction. Jurisdiction is a very important issue as, in the Delhi case, the victim’s friend stated that the police wasted 30 minutes arguing over jurisdiction, although the victim and her friend were lying on the road for two hours. The police chief also announced a series of other measures such as the recruitment of 418 women sub-inspectors and 2,088 women constables, PCR vans to be deployed outside women’s colleges, provision for women to call ‘100’ to seek assistance to be given a lift home at night by a PCR van, and 24-hour police cover for areas around entertainment hubs with increased security between 8 p.m. and 1 a.m. Despite these reforms, in the succeeding months, police actions in subsequent rape cases have caused much alarm. In the case of the rape of a five-year-old child, the police were accused of offering a bribe of Rs. 2,000 to the victim’s family to refrain from filing a case. Police officers have also been filmed on video beating women of all ages because they had the audacity to protest a rape.

Model Police Act
Despite the clear need for reform of police handling of rape cases, the Model Police Act of 2006 drafted by the Police Act Drafting Committee (PADC) constituted by the Ministry of Home Affairs in September 2005, and chaired by Mr. Soli Sorabjee, is in cold storage. The Model Act, which was intended to replace the archaic Indian Police Act of 1861, was drafted with the purpose of not only meeting the challenges of policing but also fulfilling the democratic aspirations of a modern society. The PADC envisioned a modern police force which was responsive to the needs of the people while being accountable to the rule of law. A few of the key concepts underlying the police Act were: 1) functional autonomy; 2) encouraging professionalism; 3) accountability; and, presciently, 4) jurisdiction.

First, functional autonomy was viewed as a means of removing the nexus between police and politicians who treat the police as their personal security service. It proposed the establishment of a panel to receive complaints from police officers of pressure from higher officials to commit illegal or unconstitutional acts. The PADC felt that the law should be the master of the police, not politicians. A fixed tenure of two years was suggested to avoid transfers arbitrarily.

Second, the Model Act focussed on encouraging professionalism. The PADC recommended abolition of the rank of constable and replacing it with a primary rank of Grade II civil police officer. However, a recruit can attain this officer rank only after undergoing a three-year training course as a stipendiary cadet, culminating in a bachelor’s degree in police studies. As a result, even the lowest level of the police force will have a bachelor’s degree.

Third was the principle of accountability. The police Act proposed introducing criminal penalties for the most common defaults of the police such as non-registration of FIRs, unlawful arrest, detention, search or seizure.

Fourth, and most presciently, was the issue of jurisdiction. Underpinning the Model Police Act is the notion that police officers should be duty-bound to assist victims of sexual offences irrespective of the crime’s jurisdiction. As the Model Police Act was never implemented, it took the tragic Delhi case for reforms regarding jurisdiction to be announced. In short, while the passage of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2013 is a milestone in criminal law reform in rape cases, the creation of offences is not sufficient. Instead, the punishment of those committing these offences through the police and the criminal justice system is critical in providing effective deterrence against future crimes.

(Aparna Viswanathan is a lawyer.)


India: In wake of woman photo-journalist’s gang rape, Govt solution in err of media freedom Print E-mail

Tuesday August 27, 2013

Dragging them below the glass ceiling

By Pamela Philipose

The Hindu

The call for police escort to women reporters is a denigration of their professionalism and shows a poor understanding of media freedom

In the wake of the gang rape of a woman photojournalist in Mumbai, Maharashtra Home Minister R.R. Patil said his government had always advocated that women journalists who have to visit secluded places or undertake difficult assignments at late hours, should apply for police escort.

It was not surprising that Mumbai’s women journalists declined Mr. Patil’s paternalistic offer with anger, saying that while they want a secure environment in which to function as professionals, just like everybody else, it is absurd to imagine that they would want to discuss their work with police personnel or settle for a gender-centric set of rules designed ostensibly for their safety.

Aside from what it means for media freedom, how does such a statement play out in the real world, quite removed from the ersatz universe of political expediency? Most journalism, by its very nature, entails visiting “secluded places” and “undertaking difficult assignments.” Going by a back-of-the-envelope calculation, if all the women journalists working in the State’s 11,229 publications (2011 figures from the Registrar of Newspapers for India) ­ not including the innumerable news channels and webzines located in the State ­ ask for police escorts, think of the number of policepersons “on media duty” that Mr. Patil would have to mobilise for this onerous task.

The fact is that women journalists are a significant presence in India today. While they may not be in the top echelons of decision making, and may be poorly represented in the districts, the last two decades have seen what some have termed as the “feminisation” of the media. Women journalists have proved that they are as competent as their male counterparts, whether in conducting investigations, breaking news, or critically analysing political and social developments.

It wasn’t always like this. Several hurdles had to be crossed over generations for media women to get recognised as professionals in their own right. After family disapproval, there were bosses who patronisingly assumed that their young women underlings were only whiling away time before getting down to the serious business of marriage and were therefore not worth even training. Newspaper establishments long resisted creating infrastructure to accommodate women employees, including providing basics like separate toilets, forget night transportation facilities and the rest.

Breaking through

Change, even in the larger media establishments, took decades to come about. Razia Ismail, who joined the Indian Express in 1967, once described the metamorphosis: “It was in the course of the late 1960s and the 1970s that the ‘lady’ frame finally broke…The day finally came when we did not find only ‘flower show’ …or ‘find out what Mrs Gandhi is wearing’ against our names on the assignment sheet. The day came when ‘ladies’ covered hard news and even got to be special correspondents with ministry beats…” Women broke many invisible cordons in the process: they did night duty, cultivated sources, interacted with unfamiliar people, entered theatres of conflict.

It is this important process of emergence, self-actualisation, and professionalism ­ which incidentally has contributed immensely to the democratisation of the Indian media and its content ­ that could be compromised if the patriarchal responses to the recent Mumbai gang rape get actualised. There are many, in would appear, who would like women journalists to go back to covering flower shows.

In fact, the reason why women media professionals often court danger and take personal risks is precisely because they still fear not being taken seriously as professionals. In 2011, a few months after a woman television correspondent was sexually assaulted during the tumultuous events at Cairo’s Tahrir Square in 2011, the Committee to Protect Journalists spoke to four dozen journalists who have undergone varying degrees of sexual violence. They were either gang raped or subjected to aggressive groping, in retaliation for their work or during the course of their reporting. What was striking about their testimonies was a common thread: they chose not to speak about their assaults, not just because they feared stigma or had no faith that justice would be done, but significantly because talking about it could have put their careers at risk, since they would then be perceived as unfit for challenging assignments and bypassed in future.

Cost cutting measures that managements now routinely adopt is, of course, not helping matters. A 2004 Press Institute of India study, ‘Status of Women Journalists In India,’ revealed how there was no such thing as permanent employment for most women professionals and even long-term contracts were elusive, with journalists often employed like daily wage labour.

It seems that the security of women journalists is linked with their conditions of work. Media freedom demands that journalists, both women and men, are allowed to do their job safely and effectively, and this can only happen when the risks that are present are taken into account and addressed.

But there is also the larger issue of the general security of all professional women in a milieu where sexual assaults have become so normalised that ‘rape’ has become just another four-letter word of abuse. The only way to respond to this ubiquitous and inchoate threat is to refuse to get intimidated by it. The photojournalist survivor of Mumbai has already displayed evidence of such exemplary courage when she made two significant statements: that she wants to get back to work as soon as possible and that rape is not the end of life.

(Pamela Philipose is director and editor-in-chief, Women’s Feature Service.)

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