A film examining the mass killings of baby girls in India and China is to be released in early 2012 (trailer below). Researchers estimate that the gender imbalance in these two countries is such that it could only have been achieved through the mass abortion of female foetuses and the murder of millions of baby girls. Look out for Pickled Politics contributors Rita Banerji and Mitu Khurana at 1:41-1:54 in the video.
The film tells the stories of abandoned and trafficked girls, of women who suffer extreme dowry-related violence, of brave mothers fighting to save their daughters’ lives, and of other mothers who would kill for a son. Global experts and grassroots activists put the stories in context and advocate different paths towards change, while collectively lamenting the lack of any truly effective action against this injustice.
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, commenting on the recent Human Trafficking Foundation revelations that many girls are lured in to the trade and then trafficked by women, reflects on female on female violence:
In the past five years, we have been forced to open our eyes here, as women, often in trusted positions, have been convicted of grotesque acts on babies, infants and teenagers. The young American woman Jaycee Dugard, whose memoir has just been published, describes how she was taken, aged 11, from a street by Phillip Garrido and his wife Nancy, kept hidden and raped for years, being forced to give birth to her children with only the two monsters present. There are other examples of female collusion in heinous sex crimes, which destroy those comforting beliefs in motherly grace and feminine care.
Michele Elliott, a psychologist and director of the charity Kidscape, believes this is considered the “ultimate taboo”, something society does not want to think about: “The possibility that the sexual abuse of a child can be perpetrated by women causes enormous controversy and distress. It is thought that even raising the possibility of women abusing children, detracts from the larger, more pervasive problem of male abuse.” She gives examples of adults despoiled by their mums or other female relatives, who were disbelieved even by doctors.
Ms. Alibhai-Brown goes onto point out the important role that women play in processes such as forced marriage and female genital mutilation, and they often are the ones persuading/forcing the girl into such a situation. Her piece ends with criticism of feminists:
We feminists, with our neat critiques of male dominance, are pathologically unable to deal with the fact that females are, sometimes, more sadistic than men and can and do viciously hurt their own sex. Who dares within the sisterhood to revise the assumptions on which so much of that belief system rests
This is unfair. Ms Alihai-Brown herself has written on forced genital mutilation (FGM) for decades and she hasn’t tried to blame everything on men. Plenty of feminist/womanist activists are intensely critical of the role of women in many cases of things like forced marriage and ‘honour’-based violence, characterising them as ‘footsoldiers of the patriarchy’. Books such as Jaswinder Sanghera’s ‘Shame’ detail the oppression the author faced from females in her own family. The classic stereotype of ‘man-hating feminists’ are few and far between in reality. Women do commit violent and disgusting acts (though still less than men), and this is recognised by most feminists/womanists, who campaign to end violence and oppression by both men and women.
The government has announced new proposals which add further restrictions on people bringing spouses and other dependents from abroad, and lengthening the amount of time which they can claim benefits:
Currently, non EU Spouses of British citizens now get “indefinite leave to remain” in the United Kingdom after two years of marriage but under the new measures they would only do so after a period of five years as well. In addition, the government wants to also reform article 8 of the European Human Rights Convention, that stops the UK from deporting illegal migrants because of disruption to family life.
Recently, convicted terrorists have used that clause to prevent their deportation from the United Kingdom. The Home Secretary Theresa May earlier this month expressed her concern about convicted criminals and terror suspects abusing the European Human Rights Convention.
There are also going to be restrictions on Britons who cannot financially support themselves bringing over extra dependents:
British citizens who are poor or unemployed could be prevented from marrying the spouse of their choice if new family migration proposals become law. The government wants to introduce a new minimum income threshold for those looking to sponsor a spouse, partner or dependants to come to the UK. Under the proposals the unemployed or those living on less than around £5,000 a year would be banned from doing so, while the probation period before spouses and partners can apply for settlement in Britain would be raised from two to five years.
The Guardian headlined the piece as “Poor to be banned from bringing spouses to the UK from overseas”, and providing for foreign dependents has always been a difficult issue. Given that migrants have no access to public funds for the first few years (and this would be extended under the proposals), the question is how would the foreign spouse support themselves if their partner could not support them?
For a long time, one of the main risks of the ‘no recourse to public funds’ rule has been that vulnerable migrants (such as women feeling domestic violence) couldn’t get the help they need. The coalition government established a pilot last year to provide these women with help, such as emergency housing and possible residence. Hopefully this will be extended and expanded as a way to combat this major problem with the ‘no recourse’ rule (which is a good one generally).
The Indy’s Jerome Taylor had this good report in the paper yesterday:
British campaigners received a boost in May when a cross-party group of MPs recommended that forced marriage be turned into a criminal offence to send a stronger message that it will not be tolerated.
The Home Affairs Select Committee, which took soundings from a variety of different groups working to counter forced marriage, stated that it was “not at all clear” that current legislation was protecting those at risk.
“Criminalising forced marriages would help people like me enormously,” insists Saima. “I would have been able to tell my parents unequivocally that what they were doing was not just wrong but wholly illegal. I would have felt like the law was on my side.”
Currently it is not illegal to force someone to marry though criminal offences – such as kidnap, rape, and assault – may be committed in the course of carrying out one. The problem is that prosecutions are incredibly rare, partly because many of the actual crimes take place abroad and partly because they are so difficult to prove when vulnerable victims are often unwilling to prosecute their own families.
“It’s often looked at as a protection issue not a policing one,” admits one police source. “There’s a lot of reluctance about the idea of introducing a new offence.”
Discrimination against girls in India is well known and documented. Campaigners have long highlighted the skewed sex ratio, the abortion of female foetuses and the murder of baby girls. Now let another method to reduce the number of girls has been revealed: forced sex change operations:
The row emerged after newspapers disclosed children from throughout India were being operated on by doctors in Indore, Madhya Pradesh.
Doctors confronted in the investigation claimed that girls with genital abnormalities were being sent to the city’s clinics to be “surgically corrected” and that only children born with both male and female sexual characteristics were eligible for the procedure. But campaigners said the parents and doctors were misindentifying the children’s conditions to turn girls into boys.
The surgery, known as genitoplasty, fashions a penis from female organs, with the child being injected with male hormones to create a boy. Dr V P Goswami, the president of the Indian Academy of Paediatrics in Indore, described the disclosures as shocking and warned parents that the procedure would leave their child impotent and infertile in adulthood.
No doubt this is just the tip of the iceberg either. It is unlikely that Indore is the only place where this happens. Nor is legislation likely to be effective to stop this. What is needed is proper enforcement of the laws and a change in a mentality that views girls as something shameful compared to boys.
Update: There has been some doubt cast on this story by an Indian newspaper, which is a rival of the newspaper where it was first published.
The latest figures from India’s national census make for grim reading. Between 2001 and 2011 the gender ratio (number of girls compared to number of boys per thousand) worsened, with only 914 girls for every 1000 boys being recorded, down from a ratio of 974:1000 in 1961. Some of the worst offending states, especially Haryana, did see slight improvements, but this was more than offset by the decline in Southern India, which traditionally has been less anti-female than the north. Much of the gap is due female foetuses being aborted. But infanticide (the killing of babies/infants) is also widespread, with young girls being murdered all over India.
What though can be done about it? Lifting people out of poverty is often the answer to many issues, but not this one. In the last twenty years, India has got richer, yet the gender imbalance is worse. It is often richer families who abort female foetuses, as they have access to ultrasounds and the money to pay for an abortion. As Rita Banerji’s article last week showed, such attitudes still exist in the (comparatively) wealthy Indian diasporas in the West, and this is only likely to worsen, as more Indians get access to affordable ultrasound machines.
Many assume The 50 Million Missing Campaign I run is about the female genocide – the mass and deliberate annihilation of women — in India. However, this is a phenomenon that concerns other countries too with sizeable Indian communities, like the U.K., the U.S., Norway and Canada.
In India the elimination is systemic and in many forms. But in expatriate communities, while issues like dowry violence and honour killings do exist, the most prevalent method of elimination is female feticide. The reason is, while western governments are compelled by law to deal with homicides, they are unwilling to address the systematic extermination of women through sex-selection.
A study published [subscription required] by researchers at Oxford University, reveals that 1500 girls went ‘missing’ from the Indian communities in England and Wales between 1990 and 2005. The 1500 figure indicates that 1 in 10 girls, who should have been born according to normal birth statistics, had been selectively aborted. The study raises another important question. This practice is not evident in the Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities in the U.K., even though all three countries share a common history and culture, and the same social preference for sons.
A bit of background is important here. Its not like forced marriages are legal right now: its just that law-enforcers focuse on stopping forced marriages by using existing legislation against coercion, kidnapping etc to stop a forced marriage.
Some Asian women groups have been against a law specifically criminalising forced marriages in the past because of fears that it might drive the practice even more undergound. I’ve never really understood that argument.
A few years ago the Forced Marriage Bill was quietly passed but it seems to have made little impact, partly because the bill had no teeth. I wrote about it then for CIF.
Now MPs including Keith Vaz say its time to go further. I’m not a fan of Vaz but I’m inclined to agree. The law is a blunt instrument but the UK needs to take a big symbolic (and legal) step forward and take action on forced marriages. It might even force countries like India and Pakistan to take it more seriously.
Dr Mitu Khurana is an Indian doctor and activist whose case we have covered a number of times on Pickled Politics. She is now facing a fresh and imminent threat to her daughters. Her case to date is best summarised by the below two paragraphs:
Dr. Mitu has been battling her husband and in-laws for years. Her troubles began when she refused to have an ultrasound (which is illegal in India due to the fear of female foeticide if the mother is found to be pregnant with girls); this upset her in-laws, who poisoned her and took her to a hospital in order to have the ultrasound done. When it was found she was pregnant with twin girls, she was pressured to have an abortion. She refused, and when they were born, she was expected to give them up for adoption. She did not want to, so her in-laws started conspiring against her, with her mother in-law pushing her then four month old daughter down the stars on one occasion.
Dr. Mitu eventually left the house with her daughters for good, and filed a complaint under the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PC-PNDT) Act, the first individual to do so. Since then her in-laws have taken her to court in order to gain partial custody of her children, an action she believes is merely a ploy in order to get her to drop the complaint against them and the hospital. Numerous officials she has encountered have been unsympathetic or downright hostile. A high court judge even told her to reconcile with her husband and in-laws after they had tried to kill one of her daughters.
Now a court has awarded her husband visitation rights, despite the fact that he showed no interest in them prior to being accused of bringing about an illegal ultrasound. Dr. Mitu fears this could endanger her children, and puts further pressure on her to drop the sex determination case, as this would be the only way to get her in laws dropping their custody case.
Her husband is due to visit them on the fifteenth, and Mitu and a number of other activists are trying to prevent them from happening by lobbying politicians. Anyone in India should write to the president or local MP, whilst in England we should contact the Indian High Commission in London:
High Commission of India
Forced marriage campaigner Jasvinder Sanghera has made a documentary (available on the iplayer for a few more days) on her attempts to reconcile with her family:
Shame Travels is the story of one woman’s desperate attempt to contact a sister she was not allowed to meet because she dishonoured her family.
Jasvinder Sanghera fled from her home in Derby to Newcastle-upon-Tyne to escape being sent to India to marry a much older man who she had only ever seen in a photograph.
Her refusal to marry, aged just 16, led her mother to say she was “dead to her”.
Jasvinder is today the Founder/Director of Karma Nirvana – the charity that helps young British women to escape forced marriage. She is also the writer of two bestselling books: Shame and Daughters of Shame which chronicle her life-story and those of other women suffering similar experiences.
The documentary follows Jasvinder’s final attempt at reconciliation with her family.
Ms. Sanghera has long been a staunch opponent of forced marriage. It is a serious problem in the UK (and elsewhere), with 1735 cases of forced marriage (potential or actual) reported to the Forced Marriage Unit in 2010. Around 85% of victims are women, whilst some men are forced into it too.
Ratna Raman, an academic in India, writes powerfully on ‘honour’-based violence in India. The piece is excellent, and there isn’t much more to add to it. Just read it:
Something is rotten in the fabric of our country. Something continues to dog and intimidate and brutalise young women. It injures men too in the attempt to settle scores relentlessly and lethally, notching points on behalf of insularity and barbarism and gratuitous gender cruelty. In 2000 the newspapers carried reports that Bibi Jagir Kaur, a Shiromani Akhali Dal councillor in Punjab, had allegedly abducted her daughter Harpreet, subjected her to an abortion, given her an overdose of pills and consigned her to the flames. This was because the young woman in question had married in secret while studying at a medical college. To date no one has been punished and witnesses in the face of muscle and money power have now turned hostile. What exactly was the crime these two young women had committed? What was the basis of their family’s behaviour? How could one even hope to understand this vicious and vitiating practice?
On paper we won our independence in 1947. Our constitution extends the fundamental right to self-expression even to women. Yet, everywhere around us despite the cries of a liberal plural space what we see is the buttressing and endorsement of hegemonic feudal stereotypes.
This is a guest post by Dr. Mitu Khurana. Mitu is a doctor and activist whose struggles and campaign have been covered here.
Recently I attended a performance held by the “Asmita” group of artists, in collaboration with an N.G.O ‘Ekatra’ in New Delhi,. Everyone was in tears by the end of the play. The play titled –“TERI MERI USKI BAAT”- raised several questions which need to be discussed by every citizen in today’s India.
A girl playing the role of a minor raped at the age of 7 years , asked the audience- “why was my schooling stopped, why did my friends stop playing with me, why was I being singled out and pointed out everywhere I went ,what was my fault? No one blamed the rapist; it was my life which stopped. The rape happened when I did not even realize what has happened to me, I knew of only the physical pain. My parents did not want to go to police because I would be stigmatized. Today the physical pain is no longer, but it has been replaced by a mental pain at a much deeper level- the pain of being violated, the pain of being rejected by my friends, the pain of my own stopping my life where it was. WHY? Why should be the stigma on me, when I did no wrong?”
Another girl played out the role of a minor girl whose marriage was fixed up by her parents, without consulting her at a tender age when she was not even 18 years old. The vows of the marriage included- “I will never speak out against my husband”, “I will never ask my husband anything if he comes late”, “I will tolerate all abuses”, “I will bring gifts from my parents for my husband and in laws throughout my life” and “I will never give birth to any girl child throughout my life” among other such vows. The play showed her life after she became pregnant with a daughter. Her parents refused to support her, her siblings refused to help her save the baby, and when she went to her husband, he kicked her and beat her up mercilessly in order to cause her abortion. The whole theatre rang out with her screams – “PLEASE SAVE MY DAUGHTER, PLEASE DO NOT KILL HER.”
There are going to be marches in India, Canada, America and Dubai this Sunday to protest against female feticide in India, and specifically the case of Dr. Mitu Khurana, an Indian doctor who is fighting to protect her daughters and have her former in-laws and a hospital for forcing her to undergo an illegal ultrasound test (as well as poisoning her . More details below from the campaign:
This is for innumerable daughters who lost their lives before getting their lives. And for the mother who is fighting the system to save her daughters “March for India’s Missing girls, March for Mitu” is a part of a global initiative to protest against the government indifference to the continuously declining sex ratios. This is to protest against the improper implementation of the act which bans sex determination- Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques regulation act (P.C-P.N.D.T Act), resulting in a large number of Female feticides taking place. Delhi`s sex ratios have dropped to 821 females per 1000 girls.
The March also aims to protest against the harassment being meted out to Dr Mitu Khurana who is the first complainant under the P.C-P.N.D.T act, and is still struggling to save her daughters.
The major Goals and Objectives of “March for India`s Missing girls, March for Mitu” are-
1. Protest the daily murder of over 7000 baby girls in India.
2. To create awareness and remember the victims of this genocide.
3. To pressure the Indian government to enforce the laws to protect these baby girls and their mothers.
4. To collect signatures for Justice for Dr Mitu, who is fighting a lone fight to save her daughters.
5. To protest against the harassment by the Authorities who have tried their best to force Dr Mitu to withdraw her cases under P.C-P.N.D.T act.
6. To demand that the Authorities stop shielding the guilty under the P.C-P.N.D.T act, so that more women can come forward and report sex determination and save their daughters.
Tulip Mazumdar, who works for BBC’s Newsbeat, reports on last year’s forced marriage statistics:
According to new figures seen by Newsbeat, there were 1,735 incidents of potential or actual cases involving British nationals reported to the forced marriage unit (FMU) in 2010. More than half of the cases dealt with last year by the government’s forced marriage unit were related to Pakistan. Meanwhile, almost a third involved people under the age of 18.
There has been criticism of the government and state for not doing enough to combat forced marriages:
The victim went to a predominantly Asian school but says she was never made aware of any help available to people like her. Every school secondary in England and Wales is supposed to be sent statutory guidelines, which they should implement. A member of staff must be put in charge of raising awareness of the issue in schools and looking out for signs of potential forced marriage. But there are concerns that this isn’t happening. Jasvinder Sanghera, from the forced marriage charity Karma Nirvana, wants the issue put on the school curriculum.
For all the failings of the last government, they did make some important moves on forced marriage. An (under resourced) Forced Marriage Unit was set up, and legislation was brought in to make forced marriage a civil offence. The reason it was not criminalised was because the vast majority of victims interviewed would not have come forward for help if they believed that their parents were going to be prosecuted. Therefore the law was a compromise which allowed the authorities to use the force of law without putting victims off from coming forward. The law has also resulted in some notable successes.
Yet, as Jaswinder Sanghera points out, there still needs to be a more fundamental shift in attitudes towards tackling forced marriage, particularly in schools. Many of those at risk from a forced marriage will be at school, or will have recently attended one. Knowing about their rights and what to do if they or a friend is being forced into marriage will help vulnerable individuals. There is no reason why such a subject couldn’t be covered in school. It wouldn’t take more than a lesson or two, and the information could easily be displayed around school. This is where the government can be useful. They should force schools to teach this and display the information.
My grandmother’s story is perhaps the story of thousands of Indian women even today. As a vivacious, young woman, she had attended college more than 73 years ago, at a time when most Indian women, even in the middle and upper classes were illiterate. She dreamed of becoming a lawyer someday, like her father. Even now she fondly recalls how in college she had played the role of Portia (who takes on the disguise of a male lawyer to save a friend’s life), in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. But my grandmother never got to be Portia in real life.
She was soon forced to marry a man that her family considered to be a good match for her — an engineer, who had just returned from England, and had his own flourishing firm. However he did not appeal to her and she made that clear from the start. But her wishes and desires were of little consequence, and she was pressurized into the marriage. It was not just a marriage that was the equivalent of rape, but for more than 50 years she also had to endure terrible emotional and physical violence.
The first time that my grandfather had slapped her, she had turned around and walked out of the house just as she was — barefoot and in her dressing gown. She walked that way right across town, back to her parents’ house, and refused to return to her husband. It is something that women in the middle and upper-classes in India simply did not do! And still don’t. For a society that places the highest premium on “a family’s reputation” — the pressure is that much more on women in the educated and elite sections to remain silent, and return to their marriages to keep up social appearances. In the end that is what my grandmother too had to do.
I look around, among the middle and upper educated classes in India, and see my grandmother’s story repeating over and over again, even today!! How do these women endure the betrayal of their own parents, snuffing out their dreams and forcing them into unions that are nothing more than rape? How and why do they endure the continuing violence — and a society that remains blind and indifferent to the injustice of their lives, while it continues to exalt marriage and traditions as it supreme altars? Why, when they are educated and working, do these women not break their silence; break the tradition of enduring torture in the name of family and honor? This was my reason for writing ‘My Grandmother’s Memories.’ Read the article ‘My Grandmother’s Memories’ here in The Wordworth Magazine (click on Columns).
Southall Black Sisters is continuing its fund-raising efforts for two sisters blinded by horrific acid attacks. Their appeal is closing soon, so Rahila Gupta of SBS has one final message about the campaign.
We want to thank you for your generous donations which to date have amounted to £28,000 (including giftaid of almost £4000). This has enabled Samar and Juwariya, the two sisters who were blinded and burnt beyond recognition in an acid attack carried out by a vengeful, rejected suitor, to continue with their medical treatment. It has facilitated three visits to the Chennai hospital which specialises in ophthalmology. Unfortunately, their medical opinion is that Juwariya will not regain her sight but Samar is awaiting an operation to insert a lens in one of her eyes which will allow limited vision. Samar had to have cosmetic surgery to prevent her cheek under that eye from collapsing as it was pulling the eye down and the doctors felt that the lens would not work if the eye was drooping. The funds have also enabled regular monthly purchases of medication and dressings and the employment of a personal care assistant to look after the sisters.
On the legal front, the perpetrator has applied for bail 4 times which has been refused each time, which is good news. The case has reached the high court and they are currently awaiting an independent medical report on the sisters which has been requested by the defence lawyers. The bureaucratic manner in which the wheels of justice move in India have had an impact on the sisters’ ability to pursue their medical treatment as efficiently as they would have liked.
SBS is itself facing financial difficulties and in the process of launching its own appeal for funds. In order to avoid confusion, we intend to close this appeal by the end of February. We would urge all of you who have not donated so far to give as generously as you can in the next fortnight as we still have a long way to go to reach our original target of £250,000,
However, we met our immediate fundraising target of £21,000 for pending microsurgery and for that A BIG THANK YOU to all those who have already donated.
Please click on the Justgiving link below and follow the instructions.
Today is the International Day Against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), a cultural practice which sees (usually) young girls being sexually mutilated in order to comply with tradition. FGM is a worldwide practice, albeit one largely concentrated in the Middle East and Africa. It spans religions, with both Christians and Muslim girls suffering as a result of it, and has been widely condemned by leading religious scholars, though other influential ones (including a cleric feted by the then mayor of London Ken Livingstone), continue to endorse it.
FGM even occurs in Britain: investigations by the Daily Mail and Observer (amongst others) revealed that tens of thousands of girls living in this country have either undergone the procedure or at risk from it, mostly those from African/Middle Eastern backgrounds. There is legislation to deal with it in this country, but, given the difficulties of securing a conviction, it has so far proved ineffective, wih no prosecutions taking place. In other areas of the world the signs are more encouraging though:
There is a programme now running in 12 out of 17 priority African countries and it has seen real results. We have seen prevalence rates fall from 80% to 74% in Ethiopia, in Kenya from 32% to 27% and in Egypt from 97% to 91%. But there is still a long way to go.
The success behind the recent figures lies in the collective abandonment of FGM/C. There is now a culturally sensitive approach, based on dialogue and social networking, which leads to abandonment within one generation. Because the programme is anchored in human rights, it allows participants to understand better the choices they are making.
IKWRO, a group which aids Iranian, Kurdish and other women on the run from ‘honour’-based violence, is hosting an awards ceremony in June. Details below:
Do you know someone who has made an outstanding contribution to the fight against ‘honour’ based violence?
In 2011, IKWRO will grant two awards in recognition of the hard work and dedication of individuals and organisations who are working to end ‘honour’ based violence in the UK. By showcasing some of the most exceptional work, we believe that we can inspire others to take action to prevent ‘honour’ based crimes.
The award is also about turning the concept of ‘honour’ on its head. For us, true honour means respect for human rights. We hope that by hosting this award we can help to restore the sense of pride among survivors of ‘honour’ based violence, and can honour the memory of those who have been murdered.
We will launch a call for nominations later this month, and if you know a person or an organisation who has done inspirational work to prevent ‘honour’ killings, protect victims or bring offenders to justice, then we are very keen to hear from you.
The winners will be announced at a high profile gala awards ceremony in London in June, attended by survivors of honour based violence, women activists, politicians, journalists, civil servants, staff from public sector bodies and other charities and IKWRO supporters.
Can you help to fund the awards? IKWRO urgently needs funds for the True Honour Awards to help ensure that they are as big a success as possible. If you can help us by making a donation please email campaigns.ikwro[at]gmail.com
We are seeking volunteers who can make 20-30 minute presentations on The 50 Million Missing Campaign and the fight against female genocide (femicide) in India.
We want these presentations made everywhere — in schools, colleges, universities, for women’s groups and other organizations, or even for a party of small friends at home.
We have the presentation all set for you here. All you have to do is download it onto PowerPoint and walk your audience through it by reading out the information on each slide.
THESE ARE THE 4 STEPS TO MAKING YOUR PRESENTATION:
1. There are 14 slides. Click on each (slide) thumbnail below. It will open to its full size . Then download it in JPEG onto your computer.
2. Copy the slides sequentially (the file names are numbered) into a new MS PowerPoint file or any other slide-presentation program that you use.
3. Save your slide presentation on your pen-drive, and read through this short paper by the campaign founder, Rita Banerji, in the Journal of Gender and Sexuality. It provides the background and references for your presentation. “Female Genocide and The 50 Million Missing Campaign,” Intersections: Gender and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific, Issue 22, October 2009.
Also read the link for Roopa’s story (slide 11). Roopa is a dowry-survivor. When her parents refused to give her in-laws dowry, her husband and in-laws pinned her down and forced acid down her throat. The 50 Million Missing campaign is a zero fund campaign. We don’t raise or collect funds and run on volunteer effort. However none of the ngos or international organizations in India that we approached for Roopa would help her, and she required urgent internal surgery, otherwise she would have died. Her own family is very poor, so the 50MM rallied for people to donate to her family and it saved her life.
4. Whenever you make a presentation please come back to this page and put a comment down here, indicating when and where you made your presentation and how your audience responded.
5. If you think your audience will be interested, we recommend that after your presentation you could show them this film “Matrubhoomi: A Nation Without Women.” This is a brilliantly made film that won many international awards. The story, which is a projection into the future, is about an Indian village where every girl child has been killed off, except for one. This child is raised by her father in total secrecy. In a village where men are desperate to find women to marry, no one knows about her existence, till one day someone discovers her in the forest, where she’s playing dressed like a boy. [It's important to note that there is much in this film that represents reality. For instance the massive trafficking of women across India, their "sale" as brides, and the fact that families of 4-5 brothers often times "buy" a bride to share].
5. Finally, we often get requests for campaign speakers from organizations and international symposiums. If you would like to be an official speaker for us, then please contact us at 50millionmissing[at]gmail.com before you start making your presentations. And we will tell what you need to do.
Baroness Warsi, the Chairwoman of the Conservative party, is under attack yet again from elements within her own party after criticising the right wing of the Conservative Party. This has led to renewed calls for her to be moved from her role, and extensive briefings characterising her as ‘gaffe prone’ and pointing out that David Cameron has already handed some of her responsibilities to someone else. There have been accusations hat she was only appointed as Chairwoman because Mr. Cameron wanted to show how the Conservative Party had changed by appointing a Muslim woman as head of it. I would like to see Baroness Warsi move on too, but not for the same reasons.
I do not know about her competency in her present role, but she is wasted there. Prior to the general election she was Shadow Minister for Community Cohesion, which has a faintly sinister ring, but she was an effective advocate in that position. She faced down both far-right and Islamist extremists: in Luton she was pelted by eggs thrown by Anjem’s Choudary’s gang. On Question Time she confidently bested Nick Griffin, a night which in hindsight was probably one of the BNP’s biggest setbacks. As a British Muslim woman too, her background meant her words often carried more weight, whether speaking on extremism or forced marriage.
She has been a consistent opponent of forced marriages and ‘honour’-based violence, speaking out against them on numerous occasions and helping to research and combat forced marriage in Pakistan. For all the faults of the previous Labour government, they did make some progress in tackling ‘honour’-based violence and forced marriage, from increasing funding for specialist police officers to establishing a Forced Marriage Unit. This momentum has stalled under the Conservatives. The most powerful advocate against such practices was Baroness Warsi, and her current role doesn’t really allow her to focus on these things, and who else in the Coalition is talking about this?
Baroness Warsi should again become the Minister for Social Cohesion, because these issues need a competent champion.
This sounds a bit unlikely, but would be good if it was true:
The Taliban are ready to drop their ban on schooling girls in Afghanistan, the country’s education minister has said. Farooq Wardak told the UK’s Times Educational Supplement a “cultural change” meant the Taliban were “no more opposing girls’ education”. The Taliban – who have been fighting the Kabul government – have made no public comment on the issue.
Given the Taliban’s repeated and vicious attacks on girls’ schools (LINK- contains a graphic image), this could be nothing more than political posturing (if it is even the Taliban who have said this), and some regional analysts have expressed doubts about the Taliban leadership’s ability to control their more radical followers. A example of their current attitude below:
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — No students showed up at Mirwais Mena girls’ school in the Taliban’s spiritual birthplace the morning after it happened. A day earlier, men on motorcycles attacked 15 girls and teachers with acid.
The men squirted the acid from water bottles onto three groups of students and teachers walking to school Wednesday, principal Mehmood Qaderi said. Some of the girls have burns only on their school uniforms but others will have scars on their faces. One teenager still cannot open her eyes after being hit in the face with acid.
I was pleased to see that CNN-IBN, an Indian media network, has awarded Dr. Mitu Khurana one of its Citizen Journalist awards. The prize, which recognises ‘ordinary’ (i.e. those who are not journalists) Indians who have exposed or campaigned for something, such as a disabled passenger who secretly filmed people refusing to get up from the disabled seats for him. Dr. Mitu’s citation reads:
Citizen Journalist, Dr. Mitu Khurana, is a Delhi based pediatrician. She is the first woman to have filed a case under the PC-PNDT act against her husband and in laws. She also filed a case against a Delhi based hospital and the doctor who did an ultra sound on her to determine the sex of her twins fetuses. Mitu’s in-laws who wanted her to undergo an abortion tortured, her. She endured the abuse and harassment. She gave premature birth to twin girls. Her ordeal didn’t end there. Mitu’s attempts over 3 years to get her husband to accept the girls failed. Instead, she was thrown out of the house, so that her husband could marry again. Mitu is now trying to fight the case under the PCPNDT Act that clearly states that hospital and doctors should neither conduct sex determination tests nor disclose the sex of the fetuses. She turned CJ to create awareness about the Pre conception and Pre Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex selection¬) Act that bans sex determination tests in India.
We have been following her case for some time on Pickled Politics (see here, here and here). Dr. Mitu is now engaged in a custody battle with her ex-husband, who is using the threat of losing her daughters as a way to pressure her into dropping the case against him, his relatives and the official bodies. She has been repeatedly maligned by the previous judge, other officials and her former in-laws, so it is heartening to see that this brave woman, who is challenging the culture of aborting female babies en masse, is receiving more recognition.
This is an edited crosspost from the 50 Million Missing Campaign
498A is a significant law in India that is meant to protect married women from violence inflicted on them by their husbands and in-laws, and ensure justice in case they get killed. These cases may or may not involve dowry. The law is cognizable (i.e. a police officer can investigate and arrest without a warrant) and non-bailable (i.e. the court has the power to grant or refuse bail). The maximum sentence under this law is only 3 years.
Over the last few years there has been a very powerful, wealthy, lobby of Indian men, many living outside India (married to women from India), who have funded a strong anti 498A drive and have managed to put the law before the Indian administration for amendment. Their complaint is that many women are making false claims of torture and harassment under this law. They want the law to be made non-cognizable and bailable.
The 50 Million Missing Campaign will be sending this memorandum (letter below) to the Committee protesting this amendment. We request that you put your comments in the boxes below [HERE] supporting our protest. Your email address will not be published. You can also send an email (by Dec 30) directly to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The story of young actress Afshan Azad, assaulted by her brother because her boyfriend was not Muslim, has hit the headlines because she starred in Harry Potter.
But there are thousands of girls like her every year who aren’t able to tell anyone their story. They don’t just face domestic violence, but are sometimes forced into marriages to avoid any further such embarrassments. In extreme cases she could also be the victim of “shame” based violence.
Afshan Azad’s ordeal is common, and not just prevalent among Muslims.
When my mother found out I was dating a Muslim girl while at university, I faced a stern, disapproving talk about how she wouldn’t tolerate me marrying a Muslim girl (yes,most Asian parents are obsessed with marriage). But I got off lightly.
One night a group of Sikh guys came to our university and stabbed (in the leg) a Muslim guy who had been going out with a Sikh girl. In stark terms they told him to ‘leave our women alone.’
Avina Shah has released a new single, Tere Bina, which focuses on domestic violence. It was inspired by the film ‘Provoked‘, which told the true story of a abused wife who killed her violent husband and was jailed for it. Southall Black Sisters were one of the most prominent supporters of her and therefore Avina Shah has decided to donate the earnings from this single to them, which is available to buy at itunes. Her website is here. As Ms. Shah put it:
Tere Bina is a positive song all about girl power! It tells the story of a young girl who finally decides to walk away from a really violent and abusive relationship. The lyrics are in Hindi but the music has a very western feel, which I think will appeal to listeners that like to hear something a bit different but with a conscience. People think that domestic violence is a thing of the past, but it’s shocking to discover how common this problem actually is still today. We’ve put a lot of thought in trying to capture all of these emotions into the song itself as well as the music video.