The Human Impact

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.

With infertility rates on the rise and a growing acceptance of same-sex couples, thousands of people annually are opting for surrogacy as a way of having genetic children through a process of in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and embryo transfer.

With commercial surrogacy banned in most nations, many are flocking to India – a country free of regulation and with top medical professionals and low costs – to hire the wombs of women in what is known as “surrogacy tourism”.

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.

The night the rain fell: Living in fear in India’s Himalayas

I didn’t sleep a wink that night.

It poured and poured and didn’t seem to let up. I could hear it crashing down relentlessly. It was so loud that I had to get out of bed to check whether the window of my hotel room was open. It wasn’t.

The pitch blackness outside didn’t help to allay my anxiety. All I could hear was the thunderous noise of the rain beating down and rushing waters of the Alaknanda River on the banks of which my hotel in the Indian Himalayas was located.

Being the Twitter-freak I am, I shared my discomfort with the rest of the world.

Heroes and politicians, Indian floods show the good, bad and ugly

What many journalists and aid workers say is true – it is only in times of crisis, such as disasters and war, that you observe the best and worst of humanity.

In displacement camps where survivors have fled, for example, a cyclone which has flattened their village or a raging insurgency which has killed their loved ones, amid stories of pain and suffering, you will often hear incredible accounts of survival and hope.

It is no different in India.

In the two weeks since deadly floods hit the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand, there have been tales of young children being rescued by strangers, of local shopkeepers opening up kitchens to feed hundreds of marooned survivors, and of the tireless work of army, air force and other service personnel who have evacuated over 100,000 people by land and air in the largest ever rescue operation in India. Tragically, they lost 20 men when a helicopter crashed during the operation.

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