The Human Impact

Ending the beatings, rapes, murders: Where are India’s men?

Violence against women is widespread across the world. Globally, 35 percent of women have been beaten by an ‘intimate partner’ or suffered sexual violence at the hands of a non-partner in their lifetime, the World Health Organisation says.

The same research suggests that almost one third of women who have been in a relationship have experienced physical or sexual violence at the hands of their partner, and that some 38 percent of all murders of women are committed by their husband or boyfriend.

In India, the situation is little better. The International Centre for Research on Women reports that 37 percent of men surveyed admit to inflicting violence on their intimate partner.

Yet, while U.N. agencies, charities and the government run many programmes focused on promoting gender equality in this largely patriarchal country, few of them try to draw boys and men into the conversation, social activists say.

“From the Indian perspective, I would say that engaging boys and men to address gender equality is still not part of a mainstream approach used by civil society and government,” says Abhijit Das, director of the Centre for Health and Social Justice.

What to make of the Daily Mail campaign to spend foreign aid on UK flood victims?

Earlier this week, the right-wing British tabloid the Daily Mail launched a campaign for the government to divert cash  from the foreign aid budget to help victims of the catastrophic floods wreaking havoc in southern England and Wales.

Populist campaigns are nothing new for the Mail, and this one – which attracted more than 100,000 signatures in 48 hours – followed a similar call by populist right-winger Nigel Farage, whose small UK Independence Party (UKIP) wants Britain to quit the European Union and who enjoys thinking up fringe policies which irritate the ruling Conservatives.

The Mail campaign, though hardly surprising, did stir debate about the contentious issue of Britain’s foreign aid. It also brought to light questions such as why the UK has not applied for cash from the EU Solidarity Fund, set up precisely to help member states tackle natural disasters, and facts such as that we spend more on fizzy drinks than overseas aid.

Using rape as an excuse for moral policing in India

The conversation has changed in India since that horrific night in December 2012 when a young woman returning home after watching a movie at the cinema was gang raped on a moving bus and left to die on the streets of the Indian capital.

The crime – which triggered outrage amongst urban Indians who took to the streets to protest – acted as a turning point, forcing many in India to face up to the widespread violence inflicted on women and girls in this largely patriarchal nation.

Discussions about rape, acid attacks, sexual harassment, molestation, dowry murders and female foeticide are now no longer just confined to civil society groups, feminists and academics but are being widely debated in the mainstream media and even amongst the usually apathetic political classes.

Secret societies make Liberia one of the hardest places to end FGM

Liberia made history as the first African country to elect a female leader, but strong taboos make it one of the hardest countries to crack when it comes to tackling female genital mutilation (FGM).

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for her work on women’s rights, has said little on the subject. But she is in an awkward position.

FGM is carried out in Liberia during traditional initiation ceremonies in bush schools, overseen by an immensely powerful women’s secret society called the Sande.

The pain is far worse than childbirth – FGM survivor

Britain has announced new measures to tackle the hidden crime of female genital mutilation making it compulsory for doctors and nurses to record FGM cases. London community worker Sarian Karim Kamara, who underwent FGM as a child in Sierra Leone, told me how it has affected her life and why midwives are on the frontline in efforts to end the brutal practice.

“I’ll never forget what happened to me. I was only 11 years old and I’m 36 now. I’ve had five children and the pain I went through on that day cannot begin to compare to any of my labour pains. It’s indescribable.

Some people might think that FGM is just a cultural practice, that it is normal or acceptable for some communities. But it is not acceptable because it causes so much physical and psychological harm and has no benefit at all.

Rebuilding healthcare, healing survivors in typhoon-hit central Philippines

Haiyan, the strongest storm on record, destroyed many healthcare centres. Our correspondent visited the typhoon-affected areas almost three months later to see how aid agencies like ICRC have been filling the gap.

AUTHOR/PHOTOGRAPHER: Thin Lei Win

For many children in the Philippines who don’t have access to a playground, the roadside is a good alternative. Inevitably, this leads to accidents.

This boy was hit by a motorcycle one Sunday morning while playing in his village. Luckily he was found by an ICRC staffer on his way to work and brought to Basey field hospital in Samar Province, a 30-minute drive, crying loudly and bleeding profusely. The ICRC set up the field hospital in the grounds of a damaged sports hall after Haiyan ravaged the local hospital.

The future of “building back better”: houses, schools, and political transformation too?

Disaster recovery experts and scholars alike seem to agree on at least one thing: disaster-recovery efforts should concentrate not only on restoring affected communities to pre-disaster levels, but should focus on “building back better” by linking immediate relief with long-term recovery and development.

Some go even further by suggesting that disasters can become an opportunity not  just to “build back better”, but to bring about political transformation by ending conflicts and improving governance in post-disaster settings.

“The aspiration to build back better – to use the opportunity of a disaster response to leave societies improved, not just restored – is self-evidently common sense: after all, who would want to build back worse, or simply reinstate conditions of inequality, poverty and vulnerability if the chance for something better was at hand?”, said Lilianne Fan in her paper “Disasters as opportunity? Building back better in Aceh, Myanmar and Haiti.

Roots of South Sudan’s violence must be addressed now – experts

 

South Sudan’s conflict has devastated communities and polarised society and, unless the root causes of the conflict are addressed now, the world’s youngest country may find itself once more in crisis, experts said during a recent debate organised by Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The government and rebels signed a ceasefire on Jan. 23 to end more than five weeks of fighting that brought the country to the brink of civil war. More than half a million people have been displaced and thousands killed in the conflict between government troops and rebels backing former vice president Riek Machar.

One of the most damaging aspects of the conflict is the impact it has had on the country’s ability to build lasting peace, David Deng, research director of the South Sudan Law Society in Juba, said.

The din of misogyny at Bangkok protests

In fiery speeches at protests calling for her ouster, Thailand’s first female Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has been called ugly, stupid, a bitch, a slut and a whore.

A university professor recommended sending a large group of men to “sexually snare” her. A decorated doctor offered to give her vaginal repair surgery and to change her sanitary pads, andsaid she could become a nude model because she hasn’t yet reached menopause.

Not to be outdone, the head of the country’s Election Commission (EC) drew laughter from reporters after suggesting in a condescending tone that a meeting with her might only be possible if it was arranged at a certain hotel where her opponents claim she had an as-yet-unproven extramarital affair.

Gender injustice: When Indian judges get it wrong

An Indian judge who called pre-marital sex “immoral” and against “the tenets of every religion” has been criticised by activists who say his remarks highlight gender insensitivity within the judiciary and the challenges faced by victims of sex crimes in seeking justice.

Judge Virender Bhat, who presides over a fast-track court which hears cases of sexual offences, made the remarks after ruling in one case that there was insufficient evidence that a man had duped a woman into having sex with him by promising marriage.

According to the Indian Penal Code, a man who has sexual intercourse with a woman after obtaining her consent on the false promise of marriage is committing rape.

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