The Human Impact

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.

But the discussion, particularly on rape, is also bringing to surface the deep-rooted patriarchal and misogynist attitudes that exist in the higher echelons of political power – among those who have the ability to forge laws and policies to protect and empower women.

Comments made by politicians from across the political spectrum bizarrely blamed everyone and everything but the perpetrators of sexual violence.

Helped by quotas, more women enter Latin American politics

When Michelle Bachelet takes office as president of Chile for the second time on Tuesday, the person who places the blue, white and red striped presidential sash round her neck will be  Isabel Allende – the first woman in Chilean history to be leader of the senate.

One in four lawmakers in Latin America are women, a proportion second only to Europe, and a continent better known as the home of machismo is now leading the way in drawing more women into politics – enabling them gradually to push women’s, social and educational issues to the fore.

A key reason for the growth in the number of congresswomen and female senators in Latin America is the adoption of quotas for women in parliament by 16 of the region’s countries in recent years.

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.

“Urinating in dams” to solve India’s drought? Minister faces backlash

As India’s western state of Maharashtra reels from the worst drought in over four decades and millions of people face the risk of hunger, a top official has sparked outrage with a crass, insensitive joke that he should urinate in the region’s empty dams to solve water shortages.

Ajit Pawar, deputy chief minister of Maharashtra and former irrigation minister, referred in a speech last weekend to a poor drought-hit farmer who had been on hunger strike for almost two months to demand more water.

“He has been fasting for the last 55 days. If there is no water in the dam, how can we release it? Should we urinate into it? If there is no water to drink, even urination is not possible,” Pawar told the gathering, who responded with much laughter.

Public fury over gang-rape in India: Let’s keep up the pressure

So perhaps at last India has woken up to the daily abuse that its girls and women face.

Sunday night’s horrific rape where a 23-year-old woman was beaten and gang-raped on a bus as it drove through the streets of New Delhi has rightly outraged the entire nation.

In a country where news reports of sexual violence against girls and women are commonplace, yet provoke little public reaction, the events over the last four days have been unusual but welcome.

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