In the news: “Towards protecting women”

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An article about protecting women from domestic violence  & the implementation of the Domestic Violence Act:

Shailaja Chandra, “Towards protecting women,” The Hindu,  June 17 ,2010.

Excerpts:

“The Delhi High Court ruled recently that a woman can also be held liable under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005. This the court did on the basis of the interpretation that ‘relatives’ included not only male but also female members of a family. The absence of such a provision, it felt, could encourage men to instigate women members of a family to commit violence.

“The Act came about in response to decade-long pressure from international organisations and activists in India. But five years later, despite noble intentions, it remains an unviable proposition. Little thinking has gone into understanding the context in which spousal abuse overwhelmingly occurs in India. The ground realities have been ignored and the implementation aspects left woolly and unprovided for.

“Whereas domestic violence takes place in all social, economic and cultural settings worldwide, in India the difference is that families are conditioned to tolerate, allow, even rationalise domestic violence. Most of the violence takes place inside homes which should offer the woman maximum security. The 2005 law focusses on the prohibition of marital aggression, the issue of protection and maintenance orders against husbands and partners who abuse a woman emotionally, physically or economically. This sounds fine on paper, but a one-size-fits-all approach ignores women who need such protection the most.

“There is no use having a law that is meant for the whole country when there is no one to implement it. Until full-time and properly oriented protection officers are recruited — which seems to be an unattainable target now — a more practical way would be to prescribe summary disposal of cases through weekly courts organised at the tehsil or ward level. The protection officer’s responsibility should be confined to giving a report before a mobile magistrate citing two witnesses from the neighbourhood. For every case where a protection order is issued, the protection officer and the witnesses should be compensated in recognition of having successfully brought forward the case for intervention. At the village level, the panchayats as well as the health, education and social welfare fieldworkers and non-governmental organisations could be permitted to voluntarily take on the role of protection officials, to be compensated for every case that ends in favour of a battered woman.”

In the news: “Married or not, be a woman of ‘substance’”

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An article about Indian women’s right to inheritance: Shobhan Saxena, “Married or not, be a woman of ‘substance’”, The Times of India, dated June 6, 2010.

Excerpts:

“Why does much of India still regard property as very much a male domain? Why are women expected to be content with the ancient practice of streedhan, ie the dowry and gifts given to her at the time of marriage? Both questions — and answers — are closely linked, particularly when it comes to a woman’s right to family property after she is married.

“Till 2005, when the Hindu Succession Act was amended to give daughters an equal share of ancestral property, Indian women were viewed as an economic liability. In practice, the amended law does not guarantee anything to a woman. Her claim to property may depend on her status — married, unmarried, deserted, wife, widow, mother. With the divorce rate rising and many urban women deciding not to marry at all, surely it makes little sense to deny a share of the family property to half the country’s population?

“It has often been suggested that women should be made joint-owners of property alongside their husbands. But as noted feminist Madhu Kishwar wrote when Maharashtra unveiled new policy for women a few years ago, “The idea of joint matrimonial property would make sense only if women brought their share of inheritance from their parental home at the time of marriage, merging their own property into that of their husbands’. The couple could then become co-owners of their genuinely ‘joint’ property”. India’s Muslim and Christian women are equally badly off when it comes to property rights.

“The truth is that Indian society is so conservative that it is not easy to implement property laws for women. This is admitted by Justice Sujata V Manohar of the Supreme Court no less when she said: “It is not easy to eradicate deep-seated cultural values or to alter traditions that perpetuate discrimination.” It is this attitude that has kept the evil of dowry alive. As Kishwar argues “that dowry exists only among those communities where families are not willing to treat daughters as co-inheritors with sons”.

“The 2005 Amendment was undoubtedly significant. The point is that when the 21st century Indian woman marries, she must be conscious of her rights to all that is hers. She must reject the notion that after the wedding, she belongs to the husband’s family. If the marriage breaks down, she can now return to her parents’ home by right, not on the sufferance of relatives.”

In the news: “In India, Banking on the ‘Morning After’ Pill”

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Mridu Khullar Relph, “In India, Banking on the ‘Morning After’ Pill“, Time.com, May 26, 2010

“Though preventive oral contraceptives are widely regarded as the most reliable method of birth control, the Indian government’s past focus on surgical female sterilization may have slowed their adoption. “Around two or three decades ago, the concern was that India’s population was a burden and it needed to be controlled,” says K.G. Santhya, an associate with the poverty, gender and youth program of the international nonprofit Population Council.”

In the news: “India’s Rent-a-Womb Industry Faces New Restrictions”

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Hillary Brenhouse, India’s Rent-a-Womb Industry Faces New Restrictions, The Time, June 5, 2010.

This article highlights the fate of  surrogate-born children and the urgent need for legislation to regulate one of India’s fastest-growing industries.

“A draft bill to direct assisted reproductive technology (ART) is likely to be introduced this year in Parliament. The new legislation will beef up surrogacy guidelines authored by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) that have often gone unheeded by the few hundred Indian fertility clinics accustomed to writing their own rules.”

In the news: “Protect the mother and child, you protect the country”

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Rema Nanda, Protect the mother and child, you protect the country The Hindu, June 6, 2010.

This article raises the important issue of deaths during childbirth and the importance of infrastructure and accelerating investments in a few key safe and affordable health services.

“Radha is one of the millions of women who deliver enormous benefits to our country, families and children. Women work in our banks, schools, offices, and hospitals; they lead in our Parliament; and they sell goods in our marketplaces. Women also carry and give birth to our children — the future of our country.”

In the news: “A lesson in combining education and entrepreneurship”

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Maitreyee Karambelkar “A lesson in combining education and entrepreneurship”, The Hindu, May 26, 2010

Shaheen Mistry, the founder of Akanksha Foundation, a non-profit organisation working primarily in education, to impact the lives of less privileged children living or roaming the streets, speaking of key issues of entrepreneurship, highlights the importance of combining technology and an out of the box thinking to progress ahead.

She also set up the Teach for India in 2008 which is modelled on the widely known Teach for America.

In the news: “UPSC exam: 4 tries, and a will to succeed

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Suhas Munshi, “UPSC exam: 4 tries, and a will to succeed“, The Hindustan Times, May 8, 2010

“Women must continue with their education. Only through proper education can they become self-reliant. Educated and economically-independent women can make sound decisions, make their children responsible citizens, and thus help improve society, says Monika Rani, 29, who is among the 800-odd people who has qualified for the civil services.”

In the news: “Women scientists face systemic biases”

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Divya Gandhi, “Women Scientists face systemic biases“, The Hindu, May 7, 2010

This article summarizes the findings of a report commissioned by the Women in Science Panel of the Indian Academy of Sciences, “Trained scientific women power: How much are we losing and why?” (unavailable online). To quote:

“The Indian science community has for long contended with one discomfiting statistic: a staggering 60 per cent of women with Ph.Ds in science do not make it to research positions in science institutes.

The reason, as conventional perception had it, was that women scientists were overwhelmed by family responsibilities, particularly after childbirth, and pressured to drop out of research.”

Does this have to continue?