The Human Impact

Why India’s Mars mission matters, despite poverty

There has been much fanfare over the launch of India’s first rocket to Mars – a mission which, if successful, will position the Asian nation as a major player in the global space race.

For days last week, local television news channels broadcast constant updates as the Indian Space Research Organisation readied to send “Mangalyaan” – the “Mars-craft” – to the red planet.

The orbiter’s mission is to reach Mars by September and map some of the planet’s surface and test for methane, a possible marker of life.

But this is no easy feat. More than half of the 40 Mars missions launched around the world have been unsuccessful.

Only the United States, Europe, and Russia have sent probes that have orbited or landed on the planet. A similar mission by India’s rival China in 2011 failed to leave earth’s orbit.

A male child is still important for some Nigerian women

For Amaka Okoli, a modern-minded businesswoman living in urban Nigeria with her loving husband Nonso and their daughter, the sex of the baby she’s expecting is irrelevant.

The same can’t be said of her mother-in-law who, in accordance with Nigerian Igbo culture, is desperate for her son to have a male heir and is trying to persuade him to take a second wife, in spite of his reluctance and Amaka’s open opposition.

Amaka is the protagonist of “B for Boy”, the first feature film by Nigerian director Chika Anadu, which was screened at this year’sLondon Film Festival. It is a courageous tale of being a woman and a mother in contemporary Nigeria and of the social pressure that is still put on women to produce a male child.

India’s surrogacy tourism: exploitation or empowerment?

In a globalised world where everything at home is becoming more costly, outsourcing your needs to a third party thousands of miles away for less money makes a lot of sense.

For a country like India, one of the top global destinations for outsourcing, the benefits are tremendous – creating millions of jobs in sectors ranging from garment, software and car manufacturing to call centres and back office operations.

But over the last decade, a more controversial sector for outsourcing has emerged in India: pregnancy and childbirth.

Why the India gang rape verdict doesn’t bring closure

In life she had one name. But in death she has many. Some call her “Nirbhaya”  meaning fearless in Hindi, others refer to her as “Amanat” meaning treasure or “Damini” meaning lightening.

Many in the Indian media just call her “India’s Braveheart” or “India’s daughter” – symbolising the fact that she could have been any one of us. Any woman or girl in this country, where the threat of abuse – verbal, physical or sexual – is horrifyingly real.

On that night of December 16, six assailants raped her on a bus as it moved through the streets of New Delhi. They tortured her with an iron rod, stripped her naked, dragged her by the hair and threw her out onto the road in the cold.

Documentary exposes bloody reality of childbirth in the developing world

Under the bright lights of an operating table, 19-year-old Peum lies still as a gloved hand reaches through a long, wide and bloody cut in her belly and pulls a child from her womb.

I had to look away at first – I’d never witnessed a caesarean section before and although I’m only watching it on a computer screen, it’s still gruesome.

Films depicting this sort of scene usually show busy doctors handling instruments, nurses assisting them and the constant ‘beep’ of a heart rate monitor.

“Widespread misogyny” root of online abuse–victim

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – After weeks of online harassment, rape threats and insults, Caroline Criado-Perez struggled to eat, sleep or work, she told a London conference on cyber stalking and harassment this week.

British journalist and women’s rights advocate Criado-Perez spearheaded a campaign earlier this summer to put women on new UK bank notes after the Bank of England unveiled an all-male lineup of prominent candidates.

The campaign – which succeeded with the choice of Jane Austen as the face on the new £10 note – received a lot of media attention. As a result, Criado-Perez said, she became the target of numerous online threats, many of them involving rape and physical violence.

INFOGRAPHIC: Egypt’s constituent assembly

CREDIT: Mina Fayek

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Egypt appointed a newconstituent assembly on Sunday, the third since a popular uprising toppled President Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

This week, Cairo-based blogger Mina Fayek posted a very usefulinfographic on his blog detailing the composition of the 50-member assembly ordered to review amendments to the constitution signed by Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohamed Mursi, at the end of last year.

Mursi was overthrown in an army takeover on July 3 which sparked violent protests, resulting in the killing of at least 900 people, most of them Islamist supporters of Mursi.

How old is old enough to be jailed for gang rape and murder?

The crime was horrific, the case shocking, and the trial long. Yet when the much anticipated first verdict in the high-profile Delhi gang rape case was pronounced in India over the weekend, there was no jubilation, just outrage.

Found guilty of the gang rape and murder of a student on a bus in December, the teenager – one of six accused – was sentenced to three years in a juvenile home, sparking anger and debate over whether India is too soft on its young offenders. Four adult defendants are on trial in a separate fast-track court. One of the accused committed suicide in jail.

The first reaction came from the parents of the dead 23-year-old student, who was beaten, tortured with an iron rod and raped on the night of Dec. 16 before being dumped on a roadside in the capital.

Death in “Dev Bhoomi” – Disaster in Hinduism’s holiest place

Prakash Kabra recites his elder brother’s mobile number and I carefully tap it into my phone – already knowing the response, but still with a naïve sense of hope.

“The number you are calling is either switched off or unreachable at the moment. Please try again later,” says the automated reply.

It’s a response Prakash has heard countless times over the last six weeks. Yet he continues to call, hoping against hope that his brother – missing since deadly floods and landslides devastated India’s Himalayas – will answer.

Italy acid attack victim fights back to regain her smile

Lucia remembers a hooded man running away. “He looked at me for an instant, I saw he was holding a can…”

The man runs down the stairs and his footsteps echo in Lucia’s memory. “I told myself a million times that maybe I could have escaped, maybe I could have shielded myself a little better.”

The man is now far away, Lucia sees herself again standing in the doorway of her home as she recounts those terrible moments to Corriere della Sera’s reporter Giusi Fasano.

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