While Barack Obama proclaims White House support to the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities to which India is a signatory, the Indian Supreme Court has delivered a landmark judgment in a unique case of young woman in India. My apologies, but the subject necessitates a lengthy post.
Born in 1991, this woman was abandoned by her family in ‘98, when she was just seven years old. After a few years with the Missionaries of Charity, she went to her new home: the state-run Nari Niketan in Chandigarh, India. Though she is 18 years old today, she is said to have the IQ equivalent of a 9 year old. In this state-run institution, she was repeatedly raped by the staff, four of whom have been arrested. All this came to light only when she was shifted from there to another state-run institution Ashreya. The latest unsubstantiated evidence casts further doubt on where exactly she was raped, and on the entire police investigation so far.
When medical investigation revealed that the woman was pregnant, the Chandigarh Administration decided that it was in her best interests to abort the pregnancy. The girl expressed an unambiguous and unequivocal desire to keep the child. Responding to the state’s petition, the state High Court ordered an immediate termination of pregnancy.
A Delhi based lawyer Suchita Srivastava challenged the order, filing a petition in the Supreme Court. After several days of intense debate in the media as well as the public, the Supreme Court refused to allow termination of pregnancy, and stayed the High Court order.
Advocate Tanu Bedi who had earlier assisted the High Court as amicus curiae, argued for the woman, against Administration counsel Anupam Gupta. The highlights of the debate in court as reported in the press offer the gist of the arguments and the court’s judgment.
- “Consent of the victim cannot be decisive. The so-called consent of the girl is no assent either in law or fact.”
- Reacting to the statement that mild mentally challenged people have the capability to take a decision for themselves, Gupta said: “This is a myth, which is completely belied by present scientific knowledge. It is a structural edifice of myth built on a foundation of highly wishful postulates of mental retardation. The argument is underlied by sincerity and overload of commitment, yet it is mere euphoria.”
- Dismissing the emphasis that the girl’s desire to give birth was ultimate, Gupta said: “If this expression of desire is taken as consent, it will be a complete travesty of consent in moral, philosophical and legal category. How can one question her regarding termination of pregnancy when she does not even understand what pregnancy is? She is blissfully oblivious of her pregnancy and unaware of the sexual act.”
- Reacting to the argument that children of mentally challenged rape victims can be taken care by institutes like Nari Niketan and Ashreya, Gupta said: “It’s easier said than done. We seem to be living in a realm of imagination. I am not trying to run down the argument by calling it a fantasy but such change, although welcome, is yet an illusion in our society.”
- Senior counsel Colin Gonsalves, appearing for a social worker in favor of abortion, cited medical reports and said the continuation of pregnancy could result in complications, considering the girl’s age, mental status, and previous surgery. He said she was not aware that there was a child inside her, and hence could not mother a child.
- “It would be a travesty of justice if a mother has to come to the highest court of the land to seek permission to give birth to her own child”.
- Consent of the victim matters most. “She is not mentally incompetent to give consent. Despite her communication problems, she has expressed her desire to give birth to the child. She has immense strength and resilience. We don’t even know our destiny, how can we script the future of someone else?” concluded Bedi.
- Ms. Bedi argued that doctors did not form the opinion that termination of pregnancy was in the best interests of the girl, and that the medical report suggested that she required support and supervision to help her raise the child.
- Counsel argued that termination of pregnancy against the mother’s wish was against the provisions of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, and the Rights of the Disabled.
- If her mental age is a consideration for the judiciary to think that she cannot take care of her baby, why should poor women, who are found lacking in bringing up their children, be allowed to become mothers?
- Ms. Bedi said India was a party to international conventions that uphold and preserve the rights of the disabled, which had been given the go-by in the impugned order. “We have to respect the girl’s right to life”, she said.
- Ms. Bedi argued that the victim had a right to give birth to her child. She said the National Trust constituted under the National Trust for the Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities Act, 1999, had agreed to provide her social and financial support and take care of the child after delivery. Counsel for the Trust said it was funding several institutions and would support the girl.
- Before the judgment: “What you say is right if she is not a mentally retarded person,” Chief Justice Balakrishnan told Ms. Bedi. “We are worried about her future also because she is an orphan. No NGO is going to look after her. It is a difficult decision for us.”
- “We are not in favor of termination of pregnancy. If there are no further complications to the woman in continuation of her pregnancy, then why abort a life?”
- “We are sure that somebody will be in a position to give protection to the child. Our anxiety is the fetus is already 19 weeks. The second medical opinion says her physical condition is good to bear the child. The child is not suffering from any deformity. Nature will give her biological protection. If somebody is ready to take care of the child, should we even then order medical termination of pregnancy? Nature will take care on its own.”
- Justice Sathasivam told Gupta: “Is it not possible for the Chandigarh administration to take care of the child? Is it not your responsibility to protect her?”
- “We know as a natural mother she will not be able to take care of the child. But if somebody is ready to look after the child, then there would not be any problem.”
- After being satisfied that several national-level NGOs had come forward to take responsibility of the child, the 3-member bench was reluctant to accept any other arguments supporting her abortion.
- Acknowledging that if a baby is aborted against her wishes, it would cause further trauma to the woman, the court ordered that the baby should be born with “mother under constant care and supervision”.
I have no way of assessing general public opinion, but in my experience, the opinion regarding the court’s judgment has been largely negative. See this blog post by Aditi Ray on Sulekha. Prerna’s post has a slew of comments criticizing the judgment.
The Bioethics Discussion Blog asks readers’ opinion regarding permanent sterilization of mentally disabled women, and asks if disability rights groups should ever sacrifice the disabled individual to the group’s agenda. I also found an interesting student paper at the University of Kentucky’s Dept. of Philosophy, Health Care Ethics on mentally retarded women and forced contraceptives. Finally, the UN’s Women with Disabilities page is a gateway to much more information and links.
How do religions treat women? How do emancipated women treat religion? A sequence of events recently has made my mind unquiet over this subject. Nita asked if Hinduism was coming of age, with people performing the sacred ‘thread ceremony’ on their daughters. The BJP found itself trapped in the maze of confusion surrounding Hindutva. And Sarkozy said that women wearing burqas were not welcome in France, as it was more a sign of women’s subservience rather than religion. The Rational Fool hailed Sarkozy’s statement, while I and Etlamatey pondered about individual women’s rights in the comments.
Like I always do, I responded to my unquiet mind by thinking, scouring the net, and thinking some more. Here is a sampling of what I found:
- An American convert to Islam urges Muslims to fight against brutality of woman to preserve Islam’s image in the eyes of others
- A Hindu woman converted to Islam says Islam is not oppressive, unlike Hinduism
- A Hindu perspective explains how Abortion is Bad Karma
- Genocide of Women in Hinduism by Sita Agarwal
- Did the burqa bring about the ghunghat or the other way around? Read this.
- Did women have ‘fewer’ rights than men or ‘different’ in the context of Hinduism’s history? A heated debate ensued after Hindus started a campaign to change the content of sixth-grade school history textbooks in California.
- A Globe and Mail opinion piece discusses the reduction in church attendance among Canadian women and whether oppression of women by religious institutions is the main cause, while Tina disagrees in her blog post.
- How does Canadian society achieve gender equality rights enshrined in their Charter, which also protects the right to freedom of religion? The Star looks at the conflict of interests.
- Muslim-dominated Indonesia is a religious country where atheism is banned by law. Alarmed at the extent of oppression of women in their country, a group of Islamic and Christian leaders have released new manuscripts in an effort to use religion to achieve gender equality.
- BBC had an open debate on air on whether religion is an obstacle to gender equality. The extensive comments represent myriad opinions and differing perspectives on this issue. One example of a response to this debate is by Sally, who says that faith is an integral part of her, and suggests women work within their faiths for change.
In the above list, I have not listed any pro-atheist source, and strived to include Hinduism related articles. Referencing articles on Hinduism and gender equality or feminism is difficult for three reasons. One, the global discussion has centered on Islam, and the English-speaking Internet population is largely Christian.
Two, Hinduism is unique in its flexible and diverse interpretations. While all religions are intentionally scripted so as to offer multiple contradictory interpretations, Hinduism wins this ambiguity race by claiming to be ‘all-inclusive’. Devout religious folks from other religions do argue (as seen in the above examples) that the oppression of women is a misinterpretation and misuse of their ‘true’ religion. But Hindus can’t be surpassed in this respect: not only are there multiple contradictory interpretations of Hinduism, even these contradictions can be claimed to be embraced by it. I think it would be a safe bet to say that for every principle supposedly propounded by Hinduism, a contradictory principle can be found within Hinduism. People would not call me a mathematician if I did not follow mathematics, but they will call me a Hindu even if I did not follow it.
Third, for a religion that has existed for centuries, and is said to be flexible and evolving, it is impossible to differentiate religious practices from social customs and traditions. Do Hindu women wear the mangalsutra or bangles because of religion or tradition? Widow burning or sati is widely described in the world as a Hindu practice, but naturally, there are arguments and differing opinions about it.
For atheists like me, the issue is very simple. Religion has been used as an instrument of gender inequality, specifically, in the oppression of women. Removing religion from the picture removes religious and theological justifications for patriarchy, as Austin argues. Sally says that in the absence of religion, men will find other ways to oppress women, hence religion as such is not an obstacle. Indeed, many factors contribute to gender inequality, one of them being economic prosperity, as this chart shows.
However, there still exists a strong correlation between the extent of ‘organic atheism’ (as opposed to ‘coerced atheism’ like in communist countries) in a country and its overall gender equation. Both the 2004 and 2006 rankings of the Gender Empowerment Measure, which is part of the the UNDP’s Human Development Report, show that the top ten nations with the highest gender equality are all strongly organic atheistic nations, while the bottom ten are all highly religious countries with insignificant number of atheists. But, as Phil Zuckerman points out in the The Cambridge Companion to Atheism, the causal relationship is in reverse: overall societal health causes widespread atheism, not the other way around.
It is impossible to argue against faith and belief, so I do not venture much into such debates. I prefer not challenging other people’s beliefs as long as they do not interfere with my life. What I find perplexing is how even emancipated women prefer to remain within their religious faiths and struggle against oppression, rather than choosing to discard religion? If faith and belief are important, and hence atheism and agnosticism are rejected, why are other forms of theism not popular?
In the end, I think I differ from Sarkozy: if women choose to be subservient, let them be. It is their right. Men should not trample over that right, though they can trample over such women, if they wish.
Update 30th June: A few significant articles I found since writing this post:
- Few public figures have taken this topic head on. Cherie Booth, wife of ex-PM Tony Blair, gave a speech almost two years ago: Religion no excuse for gender inequality. Like many other ‘feminists’ I mentioned, she however suggests using religion as a weapon in the fight for women’s rights.
- God is merciful, but only if you’re a man. An excellent piece in The Observer that asks the exact same questions I did, and offers the exact same answer Rational Fool did in the comments – Stockholm Syndrome.
- Wherever religion and its patriarchs rule, women’s lives are in danger, an Opinion piece.
- Why Women Need Freedom From Religion, from the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
(All cartoons are from www.atheistcartoons.com)
The most commonly uttered line in English films is “Let’s get outta here” (or its variants). The most commonly uttered sentence in Indian Hindi films is “Driver, us gaadi ka peecha karo!” (“Driver, follow that car!”).
What is the price of a woman’s honor?
In colonial India, Tax Collectors tyrannized villages with soldiers, collecting much more than just taxes. One such Collector lusts after one woman (Sonbai) in the village. She refuses to bow and even slaps him. He holds the entire village to ransom. What follows is a social drama that is both agonizing and inspiring.
Sonbai rushes to safety in the confines of a spice factory, where several village women work. The entire men folk in this patriarchal society are cowards, and the showdown between Sonbai and the Collector brings the village to its knees. The only support Sonbai gets is from the gatekeeper of the factory, the town’s Gandhian teacher, and a few women led by the mayor’s wife. Needless to say, whatever the moral conviction of all the supporters, the physical and cultural power is sufficient to subdue them.
The drama progresses to the horrendous possibility of a village-approved rape and the inevitable final face-to-face confrontation. The varied reactions of the villagers to the unfolding events provide the perfect social backdrop to the drama. The climax is cathartic without letting the viewer free of the weight of the story.
Naseeruddin Shah proves his mettle as one of India’s finest actors with the devilish Collector. I have heard that he enacted this brutal role while at the same time performing in another film Pestonjee as a meek Parsi, which is remarkable. Smita Patil epitomizes the beautiful, strong-willed Sonbai. Her passionate performance is the backbone of the film. Om Puri as the gatekeeper and Deepti Naval as the mayor’s wife are solid as are the rest of the supporting cast.
If I were asked to select 5 Indian films to be shown to a foreign film critic who is a newcomer to Indian cinema, Mirch Masala (Spices) will be one of them. This is one of the most powerful films made in India, with a compelling script, gripping drama, magnificent performances, brilliant cinematography, great direction, and an overall uplifting experience.
If the cinematic production seems primitive (as I saw in some international reviews), one should realize that the film was made in a remote village of India, the cast and crew surviving a 15-day shooting schedule in the desert miles away from anywhere, and in a budget of just $100,000.
Washington Post’s review compares the ruthlessness of the drama, the vibrancy of character, and its moral obstinacy to Kurosawa’s samurai movies – an interesting viewpoint that had not occurred to me.
Also read Ketan Mehta’s interview with the New York Times to get inside the mind of the director.
There are so many contenders (see below) that I cannot select one of them.
Mephisto, Istvan Szabo’s film adaptation of Klaus Mann’s novel on Goethe’s Mephistopheles/Faust theme. Klaus Maria Brandauer’s performance is one of the best acting performances I’ve ever seen in cinema.
My Neighbor Totoro, Miyazaki’s fantasy animation creation, rated one of the best family films of all time. No villains, no fights, no darkness, no scary monsters, yet full of awe and adventure!
The Manchurian Candidate, a chilling classic, a timeless political and social thriller with Frank Sinatra’s best performance.
The Marriage of Maria Brown, Fassbinder’s most commercially successful film, a landmark in German cinema for its personal view at post-war Germany. Amazing that he could direct with this precision under the influence of drugs.
"Not to have seen the cinema of Satyajit Ray means existing in the world without seeing the sun or the moon."
- Akira Kurosawa
No points for guessing this one, my dear readers! Ray at his sublime best. The camera speaking more eloquently than the dialogue. Structurally perfect. Emotionally subtle and complex. Vividly chromatic cinema in monochrome. Immaculate art direction. Profound characterization ably supported by sterling performances. A haunting reflection on the nature of human relationships. Ray makes every shot and edit work in the film – there is not a single second of unnecessary footage, every scene from the beginning to the end, is just perfect.
For those who haven’t already, do read my earlier post Light Rays on Charulata.
A Bengali housewife in 1897 enraptures me – a 30-something male of more than a century later – in Charulata. A young black girl growing up in the early 1900s in America endears me in The Color Purple, Spielberg’s masterpiece. This is the power of cinema, of film-making at its best.
We meet Celie when she is 14 and pregnant by her father. We live her life along with her for the next 30 years, despairing at her misfortune, and exulting at her triumph. This is Whoopi Goldberg in her first and finest performance, before being closeted by Hollywood into stereotypical roles. Danny Glover is terrific in portraying the physical brutality and outward strength masquerading as masculinity while betraying a weakness of character and inner strength. Oprah Winfrey, a first-timer like Goldberg, is superb as the indomitable black woman who will not bow down to males or whites. The evocative Sister song! This is not a tale of a woman’s suffering, but of her enduring struggle and ultimate victory. The movie is not without flaws, but the story and performances are uniquely heart-rending.
When I first saw the film on the big screen in the mid-80s, I was young and impressionable. I cried and cried and wept in joy. When seeing it a few years ago, I did not break down emotionally, but was equally moved.
Citizen Kane, the legendary Welles masterpiece, that I’m still learning to appreciate
Casablanca, the legendary, most-cited, most-beloved film of all time
A Clockwork Orange, cited by some as a great film-making, but did not go down well with me at all. I felt like having been food-poisoned after watching the film. Not recommended by me.
I did not have the courage to write about Charulata, because it is as if one is writing about the Mona Lisa. One is afraid, that one is not of ‘that’ level of an artistic connoisseur, and hence tends to keep mum about great art works. But since this Unquiet Mind keeps thinking about it, and the whole purpose of this blog is to keep expressing such Unquiet Thoughts, I decided to write…finally.
Ray was asked what he thought was his best film, and he answered, apparently without any hesitation, "Charulata". He further said that if he were asked to remake his films all over again, Charulata was the one film in which he would not change even a single frame. That is a big statement coming from Ray.
When Ray received the lifetime achievement award from the Oscar Academy, he was on his deathbed. And I was in tears. I cried.
There are many people like me who’ve been enamored by Ray’s magic in Apu’s Trilogy. Pather Panchali was a milestone in Indian cinema as it brought Indian cinema to the world. And shook it. I am myself a great admirer of Pather Panchali and the Apu Trilogy. But Charulata is in a class of its own. It is a study of a woman’s mind, and, a revealing study.
The first sequence is like a tutorial in film-making. No words, no dialogue, no music. Charu is alone at home and her loneliness is captured by the camera in an exquisite fashion. Observe her as she engages in mundane activities at home, how the camera follows her about the home. No music in this introductory scene, and that establishes and emphasizes the loneliness. Finally, the climax occurs when she is looking at her husband through her binoculars walking down the gallery. She puts the binoculars down, and the camera zooms out. This is the climax. At once, you know, that you’re in a treat from a cameraman’s perspective.
The storm when her brother-in-law arrives is anticipatory of the storm he is going to bring into her lonesome, albeit married, life.
When she gets emotionally involved in her brother-in-law, it is not a typical script – thanks to Tagore. The script is based on Tagore’s Nastanirh (The Broken Nest), and there are several scholarly works exploring the relationship between Tagore’s Nashtanir and Ray’s Charulata. See here, here, and here for more scholarly information on this topic. I haven’t read Tagore, so I’ll restrict myself to my responses to the film.
In spite of being a male, I find Charulata to be the greatest statement ever for a woman’s individuality. Not in the sense of feminism. No. In the sense of how a woman needs to be understood by her husband, in a marriage, and how a woman needs recognition of herself, of her creative abilities.
If one has never had a conversation with one’s lover’s eyes, without words, one need not see this film. This film is all about unspoken words. It is about expressions. The sequence of Charu on the swing is one of film-making’s greatest achievements ever. If you can communicate and converse without the need of words, you’ll understand why. One of the greatest scenes in film-making – Charu on a swing, looking at her brother-in-law on the ground writing poetry, and looking up with a thirst at a window showing a mother and child…it is one of the greatest moments in cinema. How the camera pans!
Madhabi Mukherjee was so highly regarded as Charulata…there are reports that when she used to visit Englishmen’s homes in the UK, there used to be huge posters of Charu on the walls, and she was highly embarrassed.
Look at her expressions in the film when she publishes her own story in the magazine. She hits the magazine onto Amal’s (brother-in-law’s) head and runs to the window. Look at her expressions of tears, and how she controls them. It is love, but constrained by her marriage. The way Madhabi Mukherjee conveys that, is indescribable. You need to see it to believe it.
Also observe the period setting of the film. It was the 1850s, and the furniture, the sets, the music, the costumes, and the language had to suit the period. Ray was extremely meticulous and you can see it for yourself.
The ending of the film has spawned numerous interpretations and essays. It features the first freeze shots in Indian cinema. Charu and Bhupathi’s hands are extended towards each other, but they don’t touch. This sequence of freeze shots has been hailed as a masterpiece in filmmaking. Charulata’s tryst with independence is likened to India’s struggle for independence from the Euro-American powers after the war. Where else would you find such a compelling contrast?
I think I’ve expressed about 25% of my film appreciation of Charulata above, and I’ll end here. If you’re a serious film appreciation lover, write back, and we can learn still more from each other about this great genius. Thanks for reading. Comments about other films of Ray are also, obviously, welcome!
Photo Credits: Parabaas
One of the most frequently googled post on this blog is Indian Women: Beware of Orkut. They use many different keywords to land on that post: photo misuse on Orkut, indian women abuse orkut, and so on. Sometimes, Orkutians post a link to my article while ‘scrapping’ their friends in Orkut, and I get several hits from within Orkut itself.
Well, we all know how Orkut is being misused, so why do Indians, especially women and girls, stick with it when there are better alternatives available? Facebook for example, offers some of the best privacy features among all the social networking sites. You can choose who can see your profile and what information can or cannot be searched. You can pick and choose select parts of your profile for a select group of friends. You can control what information is shared when you message or send a friend request.
If one is familiar with Facebook’s privacy features, one will feel naked in Orkut. So why do Indian girls and women still stick to Orkut? Bollywood stars have already started migrating in droves from Orkut to Facebook. Will their fans and the Indian public follow?
Here are some points to ponder:
1. ‘Critical mass’ is a significant factor in such communities. Most people will join what most others have already joined, propelling the #1 even higher in numbers. There are over 7 million Indian Orkut visitors in July 2007, compared to 0.78 million for Facebook. Orkut is MTV’s Youth Icon 2007. Another factor of course, is general knowledge and awareness of the Internet and other alternatives.
2. As per Agencyfaqs citing ComScore: “Facebook grew phenomenally in India between April and June 2007, attracting an additional 323,000 unique visitors. The privacy issue, especially for women users, is reflected in the better representation they have on Facebook. While 40.7 per cent of unique visitors from India on Facebook are women, they constitute 28 per cent in Orkut.” So, at least some Indian women are already getting wiser!
3. However strong privacy features you introduce in a social networking platform, it cannot protect you always. Like they say, if you make something idiot-proof, someone will invent a better idiot!
4. More intriguingly, I wonder if the lack of privacy features in Orkut are uniquely tempting for the Indian youth. Is our repressive social culture driving our youth to sneak and peek into each other’s Orkut profiles instead? Our present social context bans dating. Does Orkut provide a safe way to get to know some more information about that heartthrob in your college? Does it help screen that boy or girl your parents introduced to you on your own terms and on your own platform, away from your parents scrutiny?
If that is indeed the case, then networks like Facebook will never gain critical volume in India. What do you think?
This is the spookiest thing I’ve ever seen on the Internet yet. A revolutionary people-focused search engine, Spock, launched into public beta today.
About 30% of all search traffic is people related – about 20 billion search queries per month. How is it different from Google or other mainstream search engines? If you Google “boxer”, you’ll get the Wikipedia entry for boxer dogs. Spock will give you Muhammed Ali and Mike Tyson.
Spock scans social networks such as LinkedIn, MySpace, Facebook, and other sites like Wikipedia, Flickr, and blogs. It then pulls that information into a concise summary about a person, such as his occupation, interests, age, marital status, photo, religious affiliations, and hometown. A click on the summary reveals related Web sites and known associates.
I decided to check how far I had been ‘spocked’:
Wow. It already knows I work in the IT industry, though it got my title wrong. But, this shows it has already crawled my LinkedIn profile. Since I am virtually a nobody on this planet, let’s check out what Spock comes up with for an Indian sportswoman currently in the news for her stellar performance:
Notice how it has correlated her Wikipedia entry with her photograph on a magazine cover, and with her fan sites. “Disambiguating people, and then collapsing multiple sources of information into a single entry, or entity resolution, is part of the secret sauce of a people search engine.”, says Tim O’Reilly, who seems excited about Spock. That’s not all.
As a community user, I can add my own ‘tags’ to this person. I can, for example, tag her as “stupid” or “sexy”. Me and other community members are able to ‘vote’ a tag ‘up or down’. What is alarming is that even if you “claim your profile”, the Spock community gets the final say in the vote, as per this Time article.
How easily can this be used for snooping, privacy intrusion, and humiliation? Let’s say I’m a male student spurned by a girl in college. I tag her as “easy” on Spock. My friends and their friends vote the tag up. Another college student, who has heard rumors about an easily available girl in college, searches for her on Spock. And gets all the information he needs to start intruding her private life. As a more family friendly experiment, I searched for a female student using a common Indian first name:
(I’ve deliberately obfuscated the last name to respect the person’s privacy). I did not use any special tags, at all. The link to the MySpace site told me more about the person than, in this case, I wanted to know.
Spock has already ‘indexed’ over 100 million people. It doesn’t just crawl and index metadata. It tries to figure out who each document and web page is about.
Spock is not driving around town taking photographs of streets and shooting your pets or living room like Google. But it is driving through each and every narrow street, lane, path and avenue of cyberspace, while looking at you, what you’ve done, your relatives and friends, and trying to understand and make sense of it all. You think such a site will be banned? Forget that, even getting your own profile deleted may be legally difficult, according to Time.
This beast has only discovered my LinkedIn profile yet. Then it will discover me on Orkut. Once it crawls my blog, it will understand that the ‘About Me’ page really talks about me, and extract tags about my beliefs from it. It would probably guess from the URL of my blog that ‘mahendrap’ is my username on WordPress. It will then be able to link all the comments I’ve ever made in the blogosphere to me. It will crawl Flickr and YouTube and find pictures and videos. And like Mr. Spock, it will be completely unemotional about it all. It will methodically gather, process, and organize everything it finds about me. Can anything ever be spookier?
After reading about doctors who become heroes for spending some time in jail while being innocent, and doctors who intentionally fake critical evidence in scientific research, it is refreshing to read about an Indian doctor inventing a device that could help in endoscopic surgeries the world over:
Jaipur-based surgeon Atul Kumar’s patented invented device could potentially reduce the risk involved in endoscopic surgeries – a minimally invasive surgery employed to operate such vital organs as the brain, spine and uterus. It also appears to have the potential to help doctors decide whether to go in for a hysterectomy, or uterus-removal surgery, which many gynaecologists say account for the bulk of operations on women in India.
Dr Kumar says he has buyers interested in producing the device. “All I can say now is, I have licensed the apparatus to medical companies in the US, but contracts with the company prevent me from mentioning their names,” he said.
The invention is likely to reduce the number of hysterectomies on women in India. He has already got a patent in India, and has applied for patents in the US and UK. I’m not medically knowledgeable enough to know if this will also help surgeons like Rambodoc who operate in challenging cases like hunchbacks, but I sure do hope this will make life easier for both surgeons and patients!
Disturbing news broke out to start the week:
Thirty polythene bags stuffed with the body parts of female fetuses and newly born babies have been found in a dry well near a private clinic in the east Indian state of Orissa, police said on Monday.
Police suspect the body parts - mainly skulls and bones – were dumped in the well shortly after birth or abortion at the clinic in Nayagarh district, 90 km (55 miles) southwest of the state capital, Bhubaneswar. The manager of the clinic has been arrested.
“Prima facie seems to indicate female feticide but we can’t be sure until forensic examinations are conducted,” said B.K. Sharma, Orissa’s crime branch inspector-general of police.
Police said they searched the well after seven female fetuses, also packed into polythene bags, were found dumped in a deserted area in a nearby village a week ago.
Officials said they believed the two cases were linked and are part of an organized racket involved in female feticide.
I usually write at least a couple of lines with my opinion of a news item, but I’m just shell-shocked into silence with this one.
This is to be read to be believed. The Indian Government’s Women and Child Development Minister Renuka Chowdhury has proposed that all pregnant women (and girls) in India, register their pregnancies with the Government. What is this supposed to achieve? Reduce female feticide.
Some activists said the government’s plan to create a pregnancy register in a country of 1.1 billion people – where more than 50 percent of women deliver children at home without medical assistance – was unrealistic.
Not everybody’s agreeing:
“We cannot give elementary health services in a satisfactory way to most of our citizens, and to talk about registering pregnancies is ridiculous,” said Alok Mukhopadhyay, head of the Voluntary Health Association of India. “Public awareness, empowerment of women and extension of health services are key in fighting infant mortality and feticide, as well as implementing the existing laws that forbid sex determination.”
I couldn’t agree more. And what does the UNICEF have to say?
“Registering pregnancies is good,” said Marzio Babille, UNICEF’s head of health in India. “If we act upon mothers by registering pregnancies, offering quality ante-natal care, good counseling to deal with complications and an efficient transportation network…this would enormously help promote institutional deliveries and strengthen and expand the safe maternity scheme,” Babille added.
What did Renuka Chowdhury offer Marzio for saying this – a free vacation to Goa? Oh, I forget, when did the UN care about individual rights?
Don’t be fooled by the ridiculous nature of the proposal – it is more insidious than you think. Forget feticide. This proposal infringes on the fundamental right to privacy of all Indians. This is a serious offence, and I expect that a lawsuit will soon follow demonstrating the unconstitutionality of the proposal. This can never be turned into law in India. We need different measures to tackle female infanticide, not infringing on individual rights.
I’m surprised that Renuka Chowdhury is even engaging in this kind of publicity campaign. Isn’t it rather demeaning of her? Does she have support within her own government for this stunt?
Our Union Health Minister, Anbumani Ramadoss, whom I respect at least for openly saying that we need our own Mr. Condom, said: “We should be ashamed”. But, alas, it was in the context of India’s infant mortality rate (57 per 1,000 live births). Well, one can hope, can’t one?