The Human Impact

Climate change: finally something to get excited about

On a muggy, warm late morning at the end of an unusually cool summer, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of New York City to demand action on climate change.

As demonstrators swarmed out of subway stations, police officers and volunteers directed families with children in strollers, senior citizens and many young people towards the main gathering area on Central Park West.

“The science is very clear – the science actually is alarming. We have to take action now,” said Sally Ranney, co-director of the International Women’s Earth and Climate Initiative (WECAN). “This march is about showing leaders who are meeting at the U.N. that we mean business and civil society really cares and wants them to take action to protect this planet.”

As the crowd slowly moved south, people wearing colourful T-shirts with slogans like “Action now, not words,” chanted: “What do we want? Climate justice! When do we want it? Now!”

“We want to make sure the planet is safe for our child; we want him to grow up the same way our grandparents got to grow up,” said Bryan Hickel who joined the crowds with his wife and toddler.

India’s greed for dowries lies at heart of many abuses against women

Bride Kalpana and groom Bhavin Munjpara exchange wedding vows inside a hospital in Ahmedabad

The customs and traditions of our forefathers – performed during festivals and on special occasions such as births, weddings and funerals – can be beautiful, reminding us of a life past.

However, one custom in India has been exploited over the years so much that today it is directly responsible for the death of a woman every hour, and the mental and physical torture of countless others.

Despite being outlawed more than half a century ago, the custom of dowry continues unabated – promoting the view that girls and women are a liability and resulting in abuse, discrimination and murder.

The suicide letters that symbolise India’s misguided shame

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Shame.

It’s a word I often hear when speaking to women in India, where a combination of patriarchy, misogyny and extreme conservatism makes women feel ashamed of the crimes being committed against them.

They are ashamed of being sexually harassed when walking home from school, ashamed for being molested by a colleague, ashamed after suffering a beating at the hands by their husbands, ashamed when their neighbour rapes them and ashamed when he shares mobile photographs of the crime with his friends.

On Monday, this misguided shame drove two Indian teenage girls, who were being repeatedly sexually harassed and stalked by a group of youths, to take their own lives.

From the sickening to the bizarre, Indian politicians still don’t get rape

A member of the Communist Party of India-Marxist uses an iPad to take pictures of a  protest rally in Kolkata

 

Covering women’s rights issues for so many years in India, I still find the number of ways women and girls are abused and discriminated against unfathomable.

From their discrimination in accessing health care, education and employment opportunities, to their brutal rapes and murders. From having acid thrown in their faces, to being trafficked for domestic or sexual slavery. From their suicides due to dowry demands, to their molestation on buses and trains. It often feels like a bottomless pit.

The December 2012 murder and gang rape of a 23-year-old physiotherapist on a bus in Delhi jolted many in India out of complacency, and helped bring about greater awareness of violence against women in the country.

Deadly Indian landslide may have been a man-made disaster

A resident looks at the debris of her damaged house after a landslide at Malin village in Maharashtra

landslide in western India that has killed more than 100 people and left scores missing may have been a man-made disaster caused by deforestation to make way for farming, experts say.

Hopes of finding survivors are fading after heavy rains triggered Wednesday’s landslide, burying dozens of homes in the village of Malin in India’s Maharashtra state.

While the blame falls on India’s crucial yet often deadly monsoons – which annually trigger landslides and floods – geologists and environmentalists said the tragedy was avoidable.

“They told me to have a sex change” – Iranian lesbian

Sara, a bright young woman studying for a masters at Tehran University, is a lesbian – but if the Iranian authorities had their way, she would change her sex and become a man.

Homosexuality is considered sinful in predominantly Muslim Iran, and homosexual acts are illegal. Sex changes, however, are legal and appear to be positively encouraged by doctors and psychologists as “treatment” for people who prefer their own sex.

When Sara came out to her family nine years ago at the age of 20, she was sent to a psychologist who declared after one 40-minute consultation that she should have a sex change.

Catch 22: Steven’s story of statelessness in Britain

Three years ago Steven walked into a police station in the British city of Cardiff and asked to be arrested even though he hadn’t committed any crime. When the police refused, he asked if it would help if he insulted an officer. They refused again.

Steven had hit rock bottom after a series of events had left him destitute, and he believed a police cell would be preferable to another night sleeping rough.

His predicament boils down to one fact: No country recognises him as a citizen.

“Being stateless is like being an alien. Anywhere you place me on the planet, everyone will still say, ‘You are not from here’,” he says. “Just talking about it makes me feel anxious.”

“FGM is bad, but it’s not child abuse,” says London-born victim

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When London-born Jay was a teenager her mother suggested she join a secret women’s society in Sierra Leone. There would be a big party, new dresses and she would be treated like royalty.

“If they’d told me what the real deal was I would have probably skipped town!” she says. “I wouldn’t have got on that plane.”

Her humour masks a long struggle to come to terms with what happened during that Easter trip to her parents’ birthplace. Jay Kamara-Frederick is a victim of female genital mutilation (FGM).

Do gender and sexuality really matter anymore?

Contestants wait for the start of the annual race on high heels during Gay Pride celebrations in the quarter of Chueca in Madrid

Contestants wait for the start of the annual race on high heels during Gay Pride celebrations in the quarter of Chueca in Madrid

When I sat down with directors Dan Sickles and Antonio Santini to discuss “Mala Mala,” their documentary which premiered last month at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York, I took out my laptop and went over my questions one more time, as I always do.

It turns out I didn’t really need them, as the interview quickly turned into a striking conversation about gender and its many nuances, love and how we perceive ourselves.

Frontline reflections on Guinea’s battle against Ebola

 

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Nobody would have thought that Gueckedou, a market town in southern Guinea, was the front line in West Africa’s battle against the deadly Ebola virus.

When I arrived to report on the outbreak, it was business as usual on the dusty, potholed streets. Traders set up their stalls under tattered, sun-bleached parasols and waved hand-held fans to stop the food spoiling in the tropical heat.

Below the surface, though, lay a simmering tension. Nobody shook hands here if they knew what was good for them, and those who could afford it bought gloves and face masks to avoid the gruesome disease that has killed well over 100 people in Guinea and Liberia since it was first reported in February.

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