The Human Impact

Postcard from Brazil: A woman free in Rio, not in Delhi

I have lived in the Indian capital for several years and, like many other women in this metropolis of 16 million, I soon learned how to deal with the lecherous stares and dirty comments, the drunken men in cars who follow my auto-rickshaw home from work at night.

I have learnt to be aggressive, to talk straight and serious when addressing male strangers, to not make eye contact, to not extend a handshake and to certainly not smile, share personal details or be friendly when dealing with men I do not know.

Some may think this is a little severe, but when you are bombarded with reports of crimes against women — of men throwing acid in women’s faces, of women being dragged off the street and gang-raped in moving cars, of little girls being lured, raped and murdered, of women being stalked and harassed, most here will likely agree my actions make sense.

Women in Delhi have learnt to be guarded, to keep up a wall, to use reputable cab services and to take pictures of licence plates on our phones and send them to friends as we board auto-rickshaws.

We have learnt to text or call loved ones when we reach our destination, to carry pepper spray, attend self-defence classes and have rape alert apps installed on our smart phones.

Extreme measures to “protect” daughters in India

Gurpreet Singh is a determined man. But he is an even more concerned father.

The 32-year-old investment adviser is leaving India and migrating to Australia. There is nothing new in that — tens of thousands of professional Indians emigrate every year.

Unlike most of them, Singh’s reason for leaving is not the pursuit of greater economic returns, but a search for something increasingly perceived by parents to be lacking in India — security for their daughters.

It was the gang rape and murder of a young woman on a bus in Delhi last December that jolted Singh, like millions of middle-class urban Indians, and awakened him to the brutalities women and girls face in this largely patriarchal country.

Malala: An icon for millions of girls who want to learn

When it happened two months ago, it shocked the world. Masked Taliban gunmen stopped a school bus filled with children in northwestern Pakistan, boarded it and shot 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai in the head and neck as she sat in the bus with her friends.

Her crime? She was a campaigner for the right of girls to go to school — an act strictly forbidden by Taliban militants who are still active in Pakistan’s Swat Valley.

This was her punishment for defying their edicts, the Taliban had said.

Fortunately, Malala survived and her story — as well as her determination to continue to fight for girls to go to school despite the threat of death — has captivated the world and made her into an international icon for girls’ education.

UN education goals off track, progress on gender-report

Afghanistan has overcome the biggest obstacles of any country in its efforts to educate girls, according to a new global education reportreleased on Tuesday by the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

In 1999, at a time when the ruling Taliban barred girls from getting an education, fewer than 4 percent of girls were enrolled in school, but by 2010 female enrolment was 79 percent, the UNESCO Education for All (EFA) report said.

Community schools, which make travel distances shorter, are credited with increasing security for girls and pushing up enrolment.

Swift action needed in fight against child marriage – UNFPA report

Despite gains in some countries, more than 14 million girls under age 18 will be married each year over the next 10 years, a figure expected to increase to more than 15 million girls a year between 2021 and 2030, according to a new report from the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) released on Thursday.

As the number of girls who are married as children grows, the number of children bearing children will increase, and deaths among girls will rise, said the report, timed to mark the inaugural International Day of the Girl Child.

International conventions declare that child marriage is a violation of fundamental human rights because it denies girls the right to choose when and with whom to marry.

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