Women Unsafe in India

I found this article in Times of India.

A plastic surgeon accused of sexually assaulting his patients; a doctor charged with the rape of a 10-year-old; a mob stripping two women in public; a hotel owner held for raping a tourist; a Russian doctor molested and a UK tourist raped — all this in a span of less than a month. What explains this trend?

ViolenceAre we as a society reaching a new low? Or is it just that such cases are being reported more often?

NCW chairperson Girija Vyas says:

These men think they have the right to assault women and they are meant to be assaulted.

What’s striking is the change in profile of the molester. An NRI recently assaulted a mall staffer, another molested a cabin crew member on board.

Jitendra Nagpal, a psychiatrist, says:

Not only do we lack value education, but we also lack lessons in life skills. A person indulging in such acts may show some unusual traits as a child that need to be worked at. Parents and schools should not overlook if a child is short-tempered or moody. Children need to be taught anger management, methods to cope with stress.

Vyas agrees:

We need to teach children early that women must be respected and in this, a family plays a vital role. A child who sees his mother being harassed every day will never learn to respect women. Parents should be very careful about their action in front of kids.

Some blame it on the changing lifestyles. There is a feeling that youngsters are getting too much too early. Says B M Tripathi, senior doctor, AIIMS:

Alcohol makes a person loose control over self. Normally a person would not indulge in such acts but under the influence of addictive substances, it’s easy to lose ones’ understanding of what is right and wrong.

Nagpal attributes the spurt in such crimes to increase in work pressure and stress. Clinical psychologist Aroona Bruta refuses to buy this argument, though. She says crime against women can’t be a stress-buster.

“There has to be a pathological disorder that will make a person indulge in such acts. In most cases, molesters
do have an abusive history or they have been a victim themselves.”

She adds:

“The expression of sex has become very free. With information easily available on internet, TV, mobiles, it’s easy to fall prey to ones whims.”

Lack of fear of punishment also acts as a catalyst. Says Sandeep Malhotra, psychiatrist,

People know they can easily get away with such crimes. Even good samaritans do not raise their voice, as they fear getting entangled in a long judicial process.

He further adds,

“Maybe the country is not ready for a cultural transition. People are not able to cope with the freedom and open society which the country is moving towards.” Bruta says,”Men are not able to face competition from women. It’s a way to put them down.”

However, all is not lost. Says Girija Vyas,

Thinking pattern of men can be changed. It’s not that tough to teach them. All we need is to educate them young.” She adds, “Our law needs to be modified. We need gender-based training and a more sensitised media. Victims need to feel secure and have more faith in the police.

Adds Bruta:

We definitely need more stringent laws, but a strict and quick implementation of those laws is also essential.” So, is it time for a complete overhaul of our society?

Taare Zameen Par: A Movie that could change your life

Rarely do you come across a movie in which the audience applauds at the end. Well, here’s one that received a standing ovation. Taare Zameen Par has emerged as the best movie of the year. Continue reading Taare Zameen Par: A Movie that could change your life

World AIDS Day in India

Today is World AIDS Day!

Brief History
World AIDS Day was established by WHO in 1988. This day provides governments, national AIDS programs, faith organizations, community organizations, and individuals with an opportunity to raise awareness and focus attention on the global AIDS epidemic.

Red ribbon is International symbol of HIV and AIDS awareness. We are flaunting one in this post. Red Ribbon

As per UN estimations, 5.7 million of 33.2 HIV-infected people worldwide reside in India. Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka are states with highest number of HIV positive cases. Andhra Pradesh is planning to make a new law that makes it compulsory for the couples to take HIV test before marriage.

India is largest producer of cheap ARVs (antiretroviral drugs) that are used in AIDS treatment. Yet most people in India can not afford it. :( Sections of society most affected with AIDS in India are sex workers, truck drivers, gays, and injecting drug users. Yet this disease is not confined to them.

What We can do?
The slogan for 2007 World AIDS Day is “Take the Lead. Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise.” Be part of those who are building better tomorrow.

World AIDS Day Poster

Here is a mini guide about what we can do to stop AIDS menace in India:

1. Indulge in safe sex always. Pass the awareness around.
2. Sex education is banned in several states. Campaign to reinstate sex education in schools. This is important considering the number of children who get afflicted by AIDS every year indulging in unsafe sex.
3. Fight not only AIDS, but also the stigma attached with the disease. Most people suffer AIDS in silence due to the fear of being shunned in society. Some of them are denied their right to live with dignity due to their AIDS infection.
4. Pass on the awareness that medicines are now available that prevent transfer of AIDS infection from pregnant mothers to their children. Most women do not request the medicine, even after treatment to prevent mother-to-child-transmission because of the stigma attached with the disease.
5. Join Stop AIDS in children campaign. Every year 330, 000 children die of AIDS. Lets take steps to save them. Again this is possible by stopping mother-to-child-transmission of infection.

Related Posts:
FAQs about AIDS
HIV-AIDS Do’s and Don’ts
HIV-AIDS stats in India

I also write at Visceral Observations.

Save Our Ragpickers!

Have you ever noticed the rag pickers who daily forage into the garbage bin near your house? They are the people responsible for cleaning most of the stuff we throw in our garbage!

Chances are you have never noticed these rag pickers, but these poorest of the poor rag pickers are the ones who not only clean our dirt but do more. Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle are 3 Rs for energy conservation and environment. And the 3rd R, Recycle, is taken care of by these ragpickers!

Save Them

In US and UK there are active recycling centers, where consumers come and dump their waste or a consumer’s waste is collected by recycling center. Electronic waste like LCDs and even tetrapacks are being recycled in other countries!

But India has no awareness like that. Here, recycling is taken care of by people, whom we more than often, relegate to lowest hierarchy of humanity: ragpickers and kabaris! Most ragpickers are young, little above the age to be called kids. Thousands of ragpickers as they sift through garbage unprotected, absorb toxins from the garbage. They are hunched for hours, which gives them several back and cervical problems at early age. They get numerous cuts and bites from rodents and the glass, needles and other things we carelessly throw in our garbage.

The other people involved in this recycling process other than ragpickers are: small middlemen, transporters, larger middlemen and reprocessors. Together they form recycling chain in India.

Ragpickers sell the waste to middleman called kabari. It is not easy for the rag pickers to be paid for their waste from kabaris, the kabaris want the waste completely sorted into different categories of plastics, paper, glass, metals. The rag pickers waste bag must be dry and clean so that kabaris accept it.

Delhi generates over 7000 MT waste daily. Studies estimate that these informal labour forces saves the three Municipalities a minimum of Rs. 6 lakhs daily. The meager payment rag pickers receive from kabaris is several times held back for various reasons, leaving these rag pickers hand-to-mouth. Bullies also snatch their hard-earned money. To save themselves from starvation, rag pickers end up into vicious cycle of debt. Often their earnings are held back by middlemen to cover previous loan. They are yet forced to starve! It is a scary profession.

It is sad that rag pickers who clean up our dirt and contribute to environment are harassed by both police and municipal workers. They need to bribe municipal workers to forage into garbage bin. Police, instead of protecting them, often beats them and forces them to sweep police stations and municipal offices.

What We Can Do

In US and UK, despite recycling centers that segregate waste, citizens are aware about segregation of waste at homes and work places. Whereas in India, if we were more aware about segregation of waste, these ragpickers would have less cuts, burns, backaches, allergies, dog-bites, respiratory disorders. We could be careful about throwing injurious stuff in our garbage bin.

These ragpickers are not beggars. They do the hard work. When will we recognize their effort and provide them at least basic amenities? Write in your comments if you have any ideas to work for the cause.

I also write at Visceral Observations.

Children’s Day! WHY?

The definition of “CHILD” in the Indian legal and policy framework is someone below 18 years. Our laws are not child friendly nor are they child-oriented. Here are a few figures for you to figure out the scenario:

  • Less than half of India’s children between the age six and fourteen go to school
  • Only 38% of children below two years are immunised
  • Over 50% children are malnourished
  • 1 out of every six girls does not live to see her 15th birthday
  • Of 12 million girls born, 1 million do not see their first birthday
  • Females are victimised far more than males in childhood
  • 53% of girls in the age group 5 to 9 years are illiterate
  • There are 2 million child commercial sex workers between the age 5 and 15 years
  • 17 million children in India work out of compulsion, not by choice

Children are the future of a nation. Yet they have been neglected a lot in India, which is evident from the existence of infant mortality, child morbidity, child malnutrition, childhood disability, child abuse, child labor, child prostitution, street children, child beggary, child marriage, juvenile delinquency, drug addiction and illiteracy.

A child prostitute in India - Picture from BBCTrafficking in people, including children, is a violation of fundamental rights. International estimates indicate at least 1.2 million children are trafficked each year, many of them subjected to prostitution, forced into marriage or unpaid labour, or recruited into armed groups. “Child labour” is, generally speaking, work for children that harms them or exploits them in some way (physically, mentally, morally, or by blocking access to education).

Forty percent of India’s population is below 18. At 400 million, we have the world’s largest child population. At 17 million, we have the ‘distinction’ of being home to world’s largest population of child labourers. This is the official figure; activists say that the real number is much larger. Constitutions of most countries, including India, have provisions forbidding child labour. Its elimination is one of the Millennium Development Goals adopted unanimously by the UN.

Child Labour - Picture from FrontlineChildren should not have to work for a living. Childhood is when a person needs nurturing, schooling, time to play and explore the opportunity to grow both emotionally and physically. When a child is forced to work, it hampers his growth, stunts his psychological and intellectual development, and prevents him from realizing his full potential. Child labour is an unmitigated evil and any society which suffers from it should be grossly ashamed of it.

Child labour & trafficking are just symptoms. They are not the real problem. The problem lies elsewhere. Unless the root problem is countered, mere addressing of the symptom makes the situation immensely worse for the victimised children. In India, children’s vulnerabilities and exposure to violations of their protection rights remain spread and multiple in nature. There is a wide range of issues that adversely impact on children in India, making them especially vulnerable. With such future citizens in large numbers, the future of our country is bleak.

So, on this occasion of Children’s Day, please think. Are we worth celebrating a Children’s Day with the viral existence of such evil practices as child trafficking & child labour in our society.