Tag Archives: Discrimination

police lacks apathy, society lacks what???

MUMBAI: The recent acid attack on a 22 year old woman at a crowded railway station, by a man who had allegedly attacked her twice before, has raised questions over police apathy in dealing with cases of harassment as much as safety. “This is the third time that she has been attacked, earlier she was attacked on the face, with a small knife.

After the first attack we moved from Malwani to Nallasopara to feel safer,” Seema Thakur, mother of the victim said. On Wednesday Railway police arrested a 25 year old man, her former land lord for throwing acid on her face. The victim, presently at Singhvi hospital has been provided police protection, however her earlier attempts to book a complaint went in vain. “I don’t know why the police did not register a case when we approached them earlier…her doctors are confident that she will recover but the family will always be scared,” the petrified mother said.

“Incident such as an acid attack does not emerge suddenly; negative feelings repressed over a long time finally result into something so hurtful. So why does the police and society refuse to act when it can be stopped, before it ruins a woman’s identity?” asked Shirin Juwaley, who survived an acid attack by her husband in 1998. While Juwaley regards Mumbai as ‘safe for women’ she adds that ‘mindsets are very unsafe’, “We are socially conditioned to accept that men can eve tease or harass women and the only time we address the issue is when something shocking happens. The police also does not feel the need to address the issue unless a women is traumatised enough to make it to the headlines,” said Juwaley who currently runs an NGO, Palash, to help women in similar situations and helps victims of disfigurement.

Expressing shock over police inaction Soniya Gill, secretary Maharashtra All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) said, “Why did the police wait to act until the woman was attacked with acid, how could the earlier attacks with blades not be registered?…Police must be asked why it did not do anything when the girl approached them on two previous occasions?” While officials at Malwani police station refused to speak on the issue, the railway police very proudly claimed that adequate measures were in place to ensure safety of women passengers, “There are extra constables in each local train compartment from 8:30 pm till 6 am, helpline numbers are written everywhere so that in case of a problem there is a quick response,” said Ankush Shinde, DCP, Railway police, western railways. “In the recent case the victim was not in the train but at the platform- a very crowded area. Even then the police quickly rushed her to the hospital and later helped in the arrest by CCTV footage,” he added.

“I see thousands of women rushing to work and back everyday, if this were not a safe city how they could be so free? There might be few stray cases but we can not question the safety of women all together,” Pramodini Balaram Matre, homeguard at the Mumbai Central railway station said rejecting the notion that there is any safety concern for women in Mumbai. However the Mumbai police cut a sorry figure in providing data for cases of attacks on women, “There are very few cases of such attacks that are actually reported because in most cases the attacker is a known person,” spokes person of Mumbai Police said.

The victims however recall each detail of the treatment given by police, “I was burned and completely disfigured but when I asked the police to file a case against my husband and his brother, I was asked to forgive, forget and reconcile,” said Sneha Jawale. Ms Jawale was harassed for dowry and in 1997 she was doused with kerosene oil and burned. “How much security can you have, if you are attacked in your house by your husband and the police refuse to register a case what can security do then? she questioned. “It was not until our divorce proceedings that the incident was recorded, before that the police simply refused to acknowledge it.” Today Sneha Jawale is a successful astrologer and writes dialogues for Marathi films and TV serials.

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Plight of the HIV+ widow

Vrinda Sharma

CHANDIGARH: “The only thing worse than being HIV+ is being an HIV+ widow,” says 26-year-old Pooja Thakur, who lost her husband, a truck driver in Punjab, to AIDS five years ago. Pooja is one of the many widows in the State who are shunned by society once they contract HIV from their husbands.

Compared to the social stigma faced by such women, the medical complications of the disease look frivolous. Apart from being considered a “bad omen” at social functions, most such women are treated as outcasts by their own families.

“My in-laws blamed me for my husband’s death and threw me and my three sons, two of whom are HIV+, out on the street. Because of the social stigma, no one provides shelter or job to an HIV+ person and the females, especially young widows, usually fall prey to sexual abuse,” says Pooja who works as president of the Chandigarh Network of Positive People (CNP+).

While a few of these women manage to find some source of employment, usually as maids by hiding their disease, many fall prey to prostitution. “I lost my husband and I was denied my right over what he left behind. Worst, for no fault of mine, I too had HIV. At first I thought of committing suicide but there was no one to look after my children, so I left the village in Fazilka and went to Ludhiana, but poverty drove me to prostitution,” rues a 26-year-old mother of two whose husband contracted the disease by sharing infected needles.

According to the National AIDS Control Organisation, over 17 per cent of HIV/AIDS cases in Punjab are caused by sharing of infected needles, the national percentage for which is barely 3 per cent.

According to the CNP+ Programme Coordinator, “The national training module for prevention of transmission of HIV to children, 2002, is flawed because there is no consideration of the socio-economic variables of rural India. All efforts of the government agencies are focused at getting photos clicked and putting up a colourful exhibition followed by lunch and tea for the guests and VIPs.”

According to a senior official of the Punjab State AIDS Control Society, over 50,000 people visited the Red Ribbon Express, a special train run to create awareness among the masses about HIV/AIDS. The official added that the Government grants widows a pension and free education to all children irrespective of their HIV status. The pension received by a widow, HIV+ or not, is Rs.250 per month, which comes once in a few months, according to Meenaj Vij, who has been HIV+ for the past 14 years.

“Though the first few years are difficult, each widow learns to live for the sake of her children. A few lucky ones have a supportive family or a job, but even the unlucky ones carry on hoping for a better future for their children,” she adds.

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cost of a small family- dont have daughters….

CHANDIGARH: “Earlier, families wanted at least one son. Now they want one son only!” says Dr. Sabu George who has been working in the field of female foeticide for over two decades. According to experts, selective elimination of unborn females in Punjab is not just the result of backward social attitude but years of marketing by doctors who promoted the idea of foeticide as sensible social investment. “Medical terrorism” Punjab has one of the lowest sex ratios in the world, from 875 per 1,000 births in 1991 to 798 in 2001. The sex ratio at last birth (NFH Survey-III) in Punjab is an abysmal 504, which means that 496 out of 1,000 families do not have more children if the first-born is male. Terming the practice of aborting a foetus after sex determination as “medical terrorism”, Dr. George said that while society has always been unkind to women, the sudden eruption in male births is entirely due to easy availability of technology and the shameless manner in which doctors market the procedure to the educated elite. “Educated females want small families and medical technology has made that convenient; eventually the concept of an ideal small family is built at the expense of dead female foetus,” he added. Advertisements Ultrasound machines meant for checking the growth of an unborn were dumped in India and doctors made a fortune by overplaying being son-less as social stigma. “Not long back, nursing homes in Punjab, Haryana and Delhi carried advertisements on how an expenditure of few thousands [at aborting a female] would eventually save many lakhs in the future,” Dr. George said. A recent study conducted by Patiala-based paediatric doctor Harshinder Kaur talks about how school girls in urban Punjab resent the idea of bearing a female child. “Close to 40 per cent stated that a female got proper attention and due respect in her in-laws’ house only if she bore a male child. Other reasons were increasing crimes against females, ill-treatment at home, and continuation of family name and support in old age.” Dr. Kaur, who has been working in the area of female foeticide in Punjab, added that only one-tenth of the girls knew that the gender of a child depended on the male partner, “Shamefully many thought not bearing a male child was some sort of a defect. The present education system seems too insufficient to enlighten them!” Even as the Punjab Government announced considerable improvement in the sex ratio (from 798 per 1,000 to 850 in nine years), experts question the reliability of the data. “The Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques [Regulation and Prevention of Misuse] Act, 1994, was enacted primarily to check sex-selective foeticide, but its conviction rate is not good enough to act as deterrent. The law has not been enforced, awareness is ineffective and the society doesn’t seem to care about the brutal murder of innumerable girls,” say“Earlier, families wanted at least one son. Now they want one son only!” says Dr. Sabu George who has been working in the field of female foeticide for over two decades. According to experts, selective elimination of unborn females in Punjab is not just the result of backward social attitude but years of marketing by doctors who promoted the idea of foeticide as sensible social investment. “Medical terrorism” Punjab has one of the lowest sex ratios in the world, from 875 per 1,000 births in 1991 to 798 in 2001. The sex ratio at last birth (NFH Survey-III) in Punjab is an abysmal 504, which means that 496 out of 1,000 families do not have more children if the first-born is male. Terming the practice of aborting a foetus after sex determination as “medical terrorism”, Dr. George said that while society has always been unkind to women, the sudden eruption in male births is entirely due to easy availability of technology and the shameless manner in which doctors market the procedure to the educated elite. “Educated females want small families and medical technology has made that convenient; eventually the concept of an ideal small family is built at the expense of dead female foetus,” he added. Advertisements Ultrasound machines meant for checking the growth of an unborn were dumped in India and doctors made a fortune by overplaying being son-less as social stigma. “Not long back, nursing homes in Punjab, Haryana and Delhi carried advertisements on how an expenditure of few thousands [at aborting a female] would eventually save many lakhs in the future,” Dr. George said. A recent study conducted by Patiala-based paediatric doctor Harshinder Kaur talks about how school girls in urban Punjab resent the idea of bearing a female child. “Close to 40 per cent stated that a female got proper attention and due respect in her in-laws’ house only if she bore a male child. Other reasons were increasing crimes against females, ill-treatment at home, and continuation of family name and support in old age.” Dr. Kaur, who has been working in the area of female foeticide in Punjab, added that only one-tenth of the girls knew that the gender of a child depended on the male partner, “Shamefully many thought not bearing a male child was some sort of a defect. The present education system seems too insufficient to enlighten them!” Even as the Punjab Government announced considerable improvement in the sex ratio (from 798 per 1,000 to 850 in nine years), experts question the reliability of the data. “The Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques [Regulation and Prevention of Misuse] Act, 1994, was enacted primarily to check sex-selective foeticide, but its conviction rate is not good enough to act as deterrent. The law has not been enforced, awareness is ineffective and the society doesn’t seem to care about the brutal murder of innumerable girls,” says Voluntary Health Association of Punjab director Manmohan Sharma. “Genocide” “The desire to have a single male child is high because more educated women have greater access to technology, they are more privileged and everybody knows which doctors are doing it in any town or village. Civil society organisations do not give it adequate priority in terms of stopping the crime, they still don’t see it as genocide,” says Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development professor Ashwini Nanda.s Voluntary Health Association of Punjab director Manmohan Sharma. “Genocide” “The desire to have a single male child is high because more educated women have greater access to technology, they are more privileged and everybody knows which doctors are doing it in any town or village. Civil society organisations do not give it adequate priority in terms of stopping the crime, they still don’t see it as genocide,” says Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development professor Ashwini Nanda.

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not all girls get to live in Punjab…

“She was thrown in the garbage dump outside the village for dogs that ate her. Her only fault — she was the fourth girl born in a poor family,” said Harshinder Kaur, paediatric doctor here, recalling the first time she witnessed discrimination against female infants in Punjab’s rural side.

“Over a decade ago, I couldn’t save that infant and ever since I try to speak for the girls who never lived,” said Dr. Kaur, who has been awarded by numerous governments across the globe for her work in eradicating the evil.

Rampant female foeticide, the shameful act of selectively aborting the female foetus due to non-preference, continues to push the sex ratio of Punjab against females; unfortunately, the evil is more prevalent among the educated, the rich and the urban bred.

The 2006 National Family Health Survey shows that prosperity does little to curb the evil as Punjab’s overall sex ratio at birth (considered a more accurate indicator of female foeticide) was 776 against 793 in 2001. In urban areas, it goes further down to 761:1,000. “The data clearly contradicts the belief that people don’t want daughters only due to the expense of dowry and marriage, the practice is more popular amongst the prosperous urban population who commit the crime to avoid perceived social disgrace of not having a son and escaping property division,” said Parveen Singhal, retired professor, who continues to work on the issue.

Education too has failed in curbing the practice as children born to mothers having Class 10 or higher education had a significantly lower sex ratio at 683:1,000 than illiterate mothers at 869:1,000. “My study on girl students of higher secondary schools in urban areas revealed that 78.8 per cent did not want to give birth to a girl child. I was shocked to find that educated girls from urban areas can discriminate against their own kind. They cited the deplorable condition of their mothers and restriction imposed on girls from family as the main reason,” said Dr. Kaur, adding that until the social status of women changed, the mindset would continue.

Chandigarh, the city with the highest standards of living in the country, has a sex ratio of 777:1,000 and Fatehgarh Sahib district has the lowest ratio of 754:1,000.

Examining the sex ratios at birth of second child makes it evident that son preference is affecting family-building strategies. The sex ratio of last births (number of females born per 1,000 males when the first child is a female ) ranges from a low of 504 in Punjab, to 540 in Haryana, and 572 in Himachal Pradesh indicating a regional spread. However, Punjab’s sex ratio of the second child when the first child is a male, goes up to a healthy 1,003:1,000, in other words, after one son, families are less inclined to go in for sex determination tests and foeticide.

Kamaljeet Gill, Professor of Economics at Punjabi University, said: “Even today, birth of a girl child is viewed as a bad investment for future but the poor still find the cost of raising a child to be nominal with respect to the income that the child might generate and also they cannot afford the cost of tests and abortion. The reform needs to begin with the prosperous, educated class which abort a female child due to their narrow patriarchal view, where sons are considered to be the only hope of old age and even after life.”

“Sanitary option”

“Unchecked technology combined with affordability has made the practice a norm, and high and middle-income groups have completely shifted to female foeticide as a more ‘sanitary option’ and female infanticide too is practised more in the form of abandoning few-days-old infants in bushes, public toilets, parks or garbage bins but the aim has not changed, no one wants to be son-less,” said Dr. Kaur.

“Statutory laws such as the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act and The Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act are not enforced strictly and the few doctors that are convicted soon open their clinics. With such ineffective implementation of laws government agencies, religious leaders, politicians or non-governmental organisations, no one can sway people to abandon the practice,” she said.

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