Petition to ban archaic/unscientific procedures during medical examination for sexual assault

Posting an email sent  by Sana [CEHAT]

Greetings from CEHAT!

As you must be certainly aware, the ‘Delhi Gang Rape Case’ has drawn some attention to the role of health systems in responding to sexual assault and rape. In this light, some of us – CEHAT, Human Rights Watch, and academics from JNU – have drafted a statement on behalf of medical professionals, highlighting some of these problems, and calling for reform in the manner in which sexual assault survivors are responded to by the health system. We hope that it will put pressure on the government to change the way in which they are approaching health responses to sexual violence in the country.

For more information on why the practices mentioned in the petition are
problematic, please refer to:

  1. FAQs on the role of health systems in responding to sexual assault
  2. WHO technical opinion

Please do have a look and endorse if you agree, and also circulate it to any other doctors, medical students or other health professionals you might be in touch with.

Please send in your endorsement in the following format:

Name:
Profession:
Designation:
Institution:
Contact:

to   cehatmumbai@gmail.com with the subject ‘PETITION’. The last date is 19th January.

Medical professionals demand the ban of archaic/unscientific procedures during medical examination for sexual assault

Move from evidence to care!

We, the undersigned medical professionals  , would like to voice our  strong protest at the continued use of the unscientific and inhuman “finger test”, the undue focus on hymenal status, and the overemphasis on genital injuries in cases of rape of women and girls in India. These procedures are still part of the current proformas being used in public hospitals in India and are contrary to the guidelines for medico-legal care of for victims of sexual violence issued by the WHO 2003.

When caring for victims of sexual violence, the overriding priority must always be the health and welfare of the patient.  The provision of medico-legal services thus assumes secondary importance to that of general health care services (i.e. the treatment of injuries, assessment and management of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections).  Performing a forensic examination without addressing the primary health care needs of patients is negligent . As the WHO recommends, concern for the welfare of  the patient extends to ensuring that patients are able to maintain their dignity after an assault that will have caused them to feel humiliated and degraded.

Although the finger test and related procedures are outdated and have been officially removed, this has not translated into changes in the medico-legal practice . The evidence act also has been amended and clearly states that survivor’s character/past sexual history is not be commented upon.[1] Many doctors, police officials, defense lawyers, and judges use findings about the “laxity” of the vagina, the “elasticity” of the hymen, or “old tears” in the hymen to wrongly conclude that a girl or woman is “habituated to sex This practice should be banned with immediate effect, and all questions that allow such findings to be recorded should be removed from all medical protocols for the examination of victims of rape and sexual assault.

The finger test is legally irrelevant , as the Supreme Court  ruling in 2003 has ruled that finger test results cannot be used against a rape survivor, and that a survivor’s past sexual history is immaterial to the issue of consent at trial .

The finger test and comments on old tear of the hymen have no forensic value , as it predicated on the assumption that an unbroken hymen is evidence that no rape took place. Actually, the hymen is a flexible membrane that only partly covers the vaginal opening. Conversely, a hymen  may have an “old tear” for many reasons unrelated to sex, so examining it provides no evidence for drawing conclusions about “habituation to sexual intercourse”. In fact, only one-third survivors may report any injury. In  any case, whether or not a woman has had any previous sexual experience has no relevance to the issue of content.

The finger test is inhuman and degrading, itself amounts to  sexual assault.  Most doctors and hospitals tend to seek blanket consent for the medical examination. Therefore rape survivors have little information about the actual medical procedure involved.

In addition to the banning of the finger test, there is also an urgent need for a collective proscription on comments on the hymenal status and position as well as on the degree of tears and the overemphasis on evidence collection at the cost of provision of care.  Many countries have operationalised the WHO guidelines of 2003 and made changes in their practice. In India, the results of these methods are routinely used by defense counsel and relied upon by judges in rape trials to unscientifically determine a rape survivor as “habituated to sexual intercourse”.

We also reiterate the dual role that medical professionals should play in their response to sexual assault as health care providers and those who assist in medical evidence collection.  As the WHO guidelines on medico-legal care of victims of sexual assault says, the therapeutic care for rape survivors should be the “overriding” priority when doctors respond. We are concerned that many hospitals and doctors in India do not provide adequate therapeutic care, including access to emergency contraceptives, prophylactic medications, counselling, and information about HIV and other sexually transmittable diseases lack of such care can lead to aggravated health consequences for the survivor
This practice cannot be eradicated until the central government intervenes  and issues a uniform gender sensitive protocol that is made applicable across India, with adequate resources to train and monitor the use of this protocol.

We demand that the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs together with the  Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare should:

  1. Ban the finger test and all its variants from all forensic examinations of female survivors, as this are unscientific, inhuman, and degrading practice
    1. Develop and institute in consultation with Indian women’s, children’s, and health rights advocates, doctors, and lawyers, a protocol for the therapeutic treatment and gender-sensitive examination of survivors of sexual violence  , such as those has already used in Mumbai public hospitals and endorsed by several health professionals.
    2. The protocol must comply with the standards and ethics issued by the World Health Organization, including the right to provide or refuse informed consent for medical treatment and examination.
    3. The protocol should emphasis on the need to seek the history of the incident in order to collect only relevant medical evidence  ,  correlate findings with the nature of sexual assault reported, record delay in reporting, and note other activities such as bathing, douching, urinating after the sexual assault that result in loss of body evidence.
    4. The protocol should exclude the following information: size of the vaginal introitus/hymenal opening/number of fingers admitted by the opening; comments on old tears of the hymen; comment on habituation to sexual intercourse; irrelevant obstetric history (such as history of past abortions); findings on women’s built, nutrition, weight and height
    5. The protocol should include clear directions for provision of Emergency Contraception, HIV/STI prophylaxis, treatment for immediate injuries, psycho social support to the survivors and her family, and follow up care  .
  2. Devise special guidelines for the examination of child survivors  of sexual abuse to minimize invasive procedures.  Ensure that any test is only carried out with the fully informed consent of the child, to the extent that is possible, and the informed consent of the child’s parent or guardian, where appropriate.
  3. Instruct doctors not to comment on whether they believe any girl or woman is “habituated to sexual intercourse”.
  4. Instruct all senior police officials to ensure that police requisition letters for forensic examinations do not ask doctors to comment  on whether a rape survivor is “habituated to sexual intercourse .” and/or whether rape has taken place or not
  5. Communicate to trial and appellate court judges that finger test  results and medical opinions about whether a survivor is “habituated to sexual intercourse” are unscientific, degrading, and legally irrelevant, and should not be presented in court proceedings related to sexual offences.
  6. Update all medical jurisprudence textbooks to specifically  exclude the finger test and its variants. Ban the use of medical textbooks that rely on the “finger test” and its variants by defense counsel to badger and humiliate the survivors of rape, sexual assault and child sexual  abuse.  Currently, forensic textbooks prescribe the finger tests and provide details on types of hymen. In their advice on how doctors should make observations in cases of alleged rape, there is a regrettable continuing overemphasis on injuries. Some textbooks teach students that “a health woman cannot be raped’, ‘working class women are muscular and so can offer resistance”, ‘if sexual intercourse is forced, then injuries must be present’, etc.
  7. Introduce a mandatory special curriculum on the dignified  treatment and examination of sexual assault survivors as part of medical education.

Not silence but Verse: Call for poetry against Violence

It’s violence against women (VAW) awareness month, and Prajnya  is calling you to submit poetry

Send us original, powerful, evocative poems in English, Hindi or Tamil
(Haikus or Tankas only!)
on the theme
‘No Violence, No Silence’

Last date for submissions: 10 November 2012

Email us: prajnya.16days@gmail.com

(Download the .pdf version of the call here.)

 

So, all you poets, write!

What we dont talk about- Steroid Abuse among Teenagers in Brothels in Bangladesh

In Bandladesh’s legal brothels, madams dose the (often underage) sex-workers with Dexamethasone, a steorid, to make them look older and fatter.which their customers find attractive.

According to a photo essay by Andrew Biraj on Bangladesh’s legal brothels, madams dose (often underage) sex-workers with Dexamethasone, a steroid, to make them look older and fatter. The photographs are sexually suggestive and made me uncomfortable, but the issues are worth examining.

These kids, as young as 12, are bought from parents or lured into sex-trade as an escape from penury and then literally fattened before they are pimped to costumers.

Dexamethasone is a powerful corticosteroid. It suppresses inflammation in the body and is used in the treatment of various disease like Rheumatoid arthritis and other AutoImmune diseases.

One of the most visible and early side effects of corticosteroid use is deposition of fat on the upper body. Typically, short term use will result in chubby cheeks, rounder shoulders and some deposition of fat on the chest. This might give the appearance of being chubby or healthy but is a side effect, and not a pleasant one.

Corticosteroids have a darker side, CDC lists some of the side effects

Possible side effects of short-term corticosteroid use:

  • Increased fat on the face (rounded face), upper back, and belly
  • Upset stomach
  • Increased blood sugar
  • Increased hunger
  • Behavior changes, trouble sleeping, irritability, depression
  • Increased risk of pneumonia, thrush (white coating in the mouth), and other infections
  • Weight gain, salt and water retention
  • High blood pressure
  • Stretch marks on the skin, acne, poor wound healing, increased and unusual hair growth

Possible side effects of long-term use (3 months or longer):

  • All short-term side effects
  • Poor growth in children (can be severe)
  • Brittle bones (bones break easily, problems with hips and shoulder joints)
  • Muscle weakness
  • Diabetes
  • Eye problems

As you can see, not only are these kids subject to being sex-slaves, but also face a lifetime of illness for a decade of two of sex-work.

There is very little medical data from Bangladesh about steroid abuse, The only people who seem interested are news outlets. UNICEF in its “Background Paper on Good Practices and Priorities to Combat Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children in Bangladesh” mentions it in passing and refers to an 2010 BBC story about the same.

Most public health and medical research into sex-work looks almost exclusively at Sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS, a few look at violence, but the longer term health and non-psychoactive drug abuse often gets sidelined.

One could dismiss this problem and say “if you are not going to live to be 40, STI’s are more a priority than Diabetes”.

Read more at

A Guide to Life [Guest post]

Cathartist, who has written on Cerebral salad before, mailed me with her response to the criticism that Meena Kandasamy was facing for her article about domestic violence. I am turning the mail into a post. As usual, she is brilliant. Follow her on twitter.

A guide to life – General edition

Can doctors be unhealthy? Yes
Do comedians cry? Yes
Can dentists have bad teeth? Yes
Do priests sin? Yes
Can shrinks get depressed? Yes
Do teachers smoke? Yes
Can athletes dope? Yes
Do clowns feel sad? Yes
Can geniuses fail school? Yes
Do deaf people compose music? Yes
Can scientists be atheists? Yes
Do scientists believe in god? Yes

A guide to life- Animal edition

Can elephants have sex? Yes
Do whales have body hair? Yes

A guide to life – Family edition

Can little boys love dolls? Yes
Do little girls love guns? Yes
Can mothers hurt their children? Yes
Do fathers protect their children? Yes

A guide to life – Gender edition

Can men cry? Yes
Do women laugh? Yes
Can men love women? Yes
Do men love men? Yes
Can men hate men? Yes
Do women hate men? Yes
Can women hate women? Yes
Do women love men? Yes
Can men rape? Yes
Do men get raped? Yes

A guide to life – Feminist edition

Can feminists be men? Yes
Do feminists love men? Yes
Can feminists hate men? Yes
Do feminists hate women? Yes
Can feminists be strong? Yes
Do feminists go wrong? Yes
Can feminists abuse? Yes
Do feminists get abused? Yes

A guide to life – Work In Progress

Is Meena a writer? Yes
Is Meena a good writer? Yes
Is Meena a bad writer? Yes
Does Meena write fiction? Yes
Does Meena write non-fiction? Yes
Is Meena an activist? Maybe
Is Meena a dalit? No
Does that matter? No
Is Meena a feminist? Maybe
Was Meena married? Maybe
Was Meena abused? Maybe
Do I believe her? Yes
Can I be wrong? Yes
Is that okay? Yes

 

 

Accidental Eveteasing and Other Mythical Beasts

This post is in reply to the letter “Locutus83” Sent to Blank Noise [Click here to Read it] asking some very honest and fundamental questions. I loved his honesty, openness and willingness to be wrong. This is also, partially, in response to the general riff raff and chit chat I have come across on various sites related to eve-teasing and street sexual harassment. And as Locust asks, have included a “guide to being a gentleman” as I cant think of anyone better suited than I to write such a guide.

Defining Eveteasing: Eveteasing is not a set of pre-defined actions. It is whatever makes women feel unsafe, powerless, predated upon and unwelcome. How you look, where you look, how long you look, what you do etc can serve as guidelines, but are not what marks eveteaing. However, terms are useful and necessary for awareness and education etc because discreet actions can be measured and evaluated.So also sexual thoughts are not eveteasing, nor are they wrong. Sexual thoughts are not disrespectful, they are natural, normal and in my opinion respectful. However, any sexual gratification that happens at the expense of another persons dignity, space and well being is inherently wrong, be it a thought or action.

How do women know? Women know because from childhood they have been preyed upon, its not sixth sense, its conditioning. From very young, girls are instructed by their parents, relatives and teachers to behave modestly, dress sensibly and mind their own business, and in the process hammering into their minds that being eveteased is their fault and it’s their responsibility to evade eveteasing. Men, on the other hand, have a free run, on the rare chance some girl stares back, snaps, or threatens to hit you with a chappal, it is laughed off and considered a small thing. So also, from childhood they are used to stares, looks, comments, whistles and so conditioned to detect and evade such behaviour.

Do they enjoy it? No woman, ever, under any circumstance whatsoever, enjoys being eveteased. This is not a matter of semantics, but a serious and fundamental issue. Eveteasing makes a woman feel helpless, powerless and dehumanized, NO ONE enjoys this. No sane person would expect women to enjoy rape (many insane people think they do), same way, no action, behavior or words that prey upon women can make them feel good.

Do women want us to stop looking? Blank noise and women in general do not want to stop men from looking, or staring, or making compliments, they want to stop harassment. This is not moral policing, not “neutering” of men, but of making them aware that preying on women is disgusting, illegal and will get their bottoms kicked.

Is it person dependant? Refer para. 3 What makes a statement/action eveteasing is essentially the attitude. So it doesn’t matter if a compliment comes from a poor man or rich, if respectful, appropriate, will be taken well. Guys who stand around the corner in groups and say “tamatar kya bhaav hai?” to passing women are not complimenting their breasts, they are being assholes.

Accidental Eveteasing. This seems to be the underlying question Locust and many others seem to have. In case the title of the article was not clear enough, and the first few points didn’t clear this misunderstanding, let me be very clear. You can no more eve tease someone by accident than you can mistakenly end up with your penis inside a cadaver. Comments do-not tumble out of your mouth and eyes dont automatically get glued to breasts.

But, occasionally, very rarely your look might be mistaken for lechery, this is not the norm but the exception. In such a situation, be honest, apologize, and look elsewhere. Women dont consider all men to be sexually deviant predators, they dont walk around looking for an excuse to use their pepper sprays. Mistakes happen, owe up and move on.

Guide for men.

There is no Guidebook
There is no “do this, dont do this” list that you can mug up and follow. Actions matter, but attitude is what causes action. The basic quality is respect for women, not the fake, filmy, “but you are my sister” kind, but respect as will be demonstrated by you not talking to womens breasts, or whistling at them.

Respect is not conditional. Expecting women to fit into the stereotypes that history has handed down before respecting them is fake, futile and will result in your acting like a dick.

Be socially appropriate.
As I said, there is nothing wrong in appreciating beauty, male, female, tree or car. However, it is important to be wise in the way one appreciates. I dont believe in lists, but there are some things that you can outright cross off you list. What works in the movies, like stalking, songs, and displays of macho-ness do not work. Also the street is not really the best way to find someone to start a relationship with. In most circumstances, a smile, nod, quick look-over will have you safe. But you have to learn what is appropriate.
Learn from the best
Just because you respect women does not mean you can do no wrong. You can still do something stupid, tacky and clumsy. This has more to do with social skills than attitude. The cure for that is to have female friends, no one knows what women want better than women. (Not only will women friends help you learn how to behave around women, they will also help you inyour pursuit of becoming a better boyfriend with ample advice and first hand experience in shopping and suchlike.)

Dont be scared, women are not looking for an excuse to call you a pervert.

Above all;

No means No

She is not asking for it. In fact, she never asks for it

To you, Locust, clearly you have no lack of respect for women, so i’d say you need to stop worrying about “accidentally” eveteasing someone, and go have fun.

On Banning Of burqas

A guest post by the wife – One of her assignments was to write a critique of an Op-ed and she chose to Critique Linda chavez’s piece on banning burqas.

arpitha jacob, editorial on burqa liberalsim, conservativism, islamophobia
Image by Ranoush

Linda Chavez in “banning the veil” supports the French/European trend to ban burqas and supports banning them in the united states also. She makes three of the commonest objections against burquas, but fails to present any real evidence apart from personal experience and broad generalizations to back her statements. Her main argument seems to be that burqas are a sign of oppression, and so must be banned, by which she confuses something that has a potential for abuse with absolute evil, not to say takes a patronizing stance towards all Muslim women.

She begins by stating that the question of Religious freedom vs. Security of “others” is a complicated issue, however, her arguments and conclusion show none of the dilemmas she alludes to and are simply one sided. By her opening statement, she also creates an “us vs them” divide, as if burqa wearers are in no need for security and are separate from those whose security they compromise. This is the first indication that her batting for oppressed women is more politically motivated than genuine concern.

Her first argument is that since burqas conceal the whole body, they are a security risk. To support this she refers to a couple of instances of burqas being used to conceal weapons and evade detection. There is no doubt that this does happen, but then, a long trench coat, a loose sweater or practically any loose clothing can be used to hide weapons. Also, criminals use all sorts of methods from face paint to stockings to hide their faces. A majority of crimes committed, terror included are done by people wearing jeans, t shirts and other forms of clothing, so an argument from statistics makes burqas the least of the threats. Clearly, banning clothing all together is the only solution, if one were to ban all clothing that has ever been worn to hide weapons. (remember the underwear bomber?) Interestingly enough, the perpetrators of both the crimes she alludes to were later caught.
It is also good to note that Muslim women are not the only ones who wear body-covering clothes. Khasi women in India, Buddhist monks, a large number of African traditions and more have clothes that can be considered “security risks”.

She then goes on to say that burqa is worn by a minority, and the Koran does not stipulate its use. To begin with that is a misrepresentation. Burqas have always been more common in certain geographic regions and among certain religious sub groups among Muslims, and among these, majority are burqa wearers. Furthermore, I am not sure what she is saying here, because clearly a religious stipulation is no defence against something that is a serious threat to security. She also forgets to mention that the Koran is clear that women should dress modestly, a point that she takes an exception to in her next and most elaborate objection against burqas. People of all faiths choose what they wish to follow from their religious teachings, and being allowed to choose what one wishes to follow is the absolute basis of religious freedom, or freedom it self. So an argument from theology does not serve an purpose here at all.

Her final and most elaborate argument is that Burqas are a sign of male oppression. Sure burqas can be sign of oppression, but then, any clothing can be. In a patriarchal society, anything, from clothing to posture can be used as a tool for oppressing women, and this can happen in any part of the world. But then, it can be argued that women who wear high heels- shown to be bad for their backs- are being oppressed by a society with narrow views on beauty and are being oppressed. Should shoes made in sweat shops or clothing made by underpaid workers in china also be banned? The greatest tragedy of this argument is the generalization, and the authors ignoring of the fact that women are increasingly choosing, by their own free will to don the burqa. She mentions that the burqa is increasingly available in the west, indicating that more women in the west are wearing burqas, but implicit in this argument is the belief that western women are increasingly being oppressed by men. An argument that is unsubstantiated and frankly absurd. Universities in the US are full of burqa/hijab wearing young women pursuing careers in everything from medicine to philosophy, if the authors generalization were to be accepted, it would mean that all these women were in fact oppressed and helpless.
She goes on to imply that since burqas are hot and uncomfortable, women would not wear it by their own choice, by this argument, all clothing worn by women in the east would be oppressive, Indian women wear saris in higher temperatures, yet no one questions their volition or freedom.

Just because something has a potential for abuse does not make it evil and more, does not warrant banning or disapproval. It is clearly more important to reduce the potential for abuse by ways that have been tested and proven over these last decades of womens emancipation- helping women with education, dignity and freedom.

In conclusion the author tries to build a case for women, against burqas, and her lack of paying any attention to the facts of the matter betray her underlying political bias, not her passion for womens emancipation.

—–

In conclusion, I, the husband agree with my wife, clearly demonstrating the patriarchal need to be in control.

Has Feminism failed Women?

Feminism is failing in the war against women says Virginia Haussegger in a thought provoking article.

She writes

There is a totalizing ideology on the march across the world, and it’s anti-women. This is not about religion, piety or virtue. Rather it’s about misogyny and a global war against women. It’s about the rights and freedoms of women. The ownership and control over women’s bodies has become the chief battleground.

Examples abound that all the increase in salaries of women in the corporate world has not addressed what happens under the untouchable umbrella of social customs and cultural practices.

In India, we have more than enough of this happening. From governments being mum on ridiculous judgments of khap panchayats and dishonor killings to daily stories of abandoned and battered girl children, we have ample reason to sit up in alarm.

It is not not that the fight against brutality to women is a purely feminist responsibility, far from it. In her book “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide” Sheryl WuDunn proposes that the

Central moral challenge of this century is gender inequity

You should watch the whole video.

The important thing to learn from the video and from any work that highlights the issue of inequity is that gender inequity is not a womens problem only. Gender discrimination is the single greatest reason we are unable to face some of the greatest challenges of this decade like religious extremesm and HIV/AIDS pandemic.

While some of you might be skeptical that just educating and empowering women might be a panacea for all of worlds problems, for those who care to look and listen, (not just the video) the transforming power empowered women have on societies is fairly obvious.

I know that there are organizations like Bell bajao and CEHAT that work in the area of Domestic violence, but I am unaware of many others and whether these would call themselves feminist.

In the coming days I hope to gain some insight into the role of feminism in gender equity movement in India and hopefully a better understanding of how the feminist movement in India can take up this challenge with the urgency that it requires.

He is NOT a nice guy

Update: 30/8/2010 : It was brought to my notice that my view on the abuse-perpetrator is a bit misleading. Not all people who abuse their partners have a substance abuse problem or stressor, more over they do not abuse BECAUSE of these stressors. Men behave the way they do because that’s how they’re socialized and because society condones their behavior. While the above might contribute in their violence, the act of violence is a behavioral problem, not primarily an environmental

Some time ago a friend of mine told me about a friend of hers who was in an abusive relationship. This girl’s boyfriend would smack her around even in front of her friends and humiliate her in public but the girl “refused to see light” and stuck to the guy. It might have been the horrified look on my face, of her continued vilification of a friend which made her hastily add “but he is actually a nice guy”.

Abuse in relationships is an underplayed reality. This is because most of the time there is a certain criminal-victim exchange happening, people dont talk about it directly, but the defensive ejaculation by my friend is a small evidence for it. She knows that the guy beats her friend, she has seen her humiliation and tears, in spite of which she thinks he is “nice”. To her credit, among all the abused girls friends, she is the only one who has had the courage to stand up to the guy and ask him to back off in such situations. Yet, even she is unsure of what to do and what to believe.

What she means by “nice” is, when he is not beating up his girlfriend, he is pleasant, often doting towards her, works hard, is not beating up other people.

The had truth is, we believe that the girl deserved it. Else, why would a bunch of doctors who have witnessed a crime happening continue to hide behind the weak excuse of it being a “personal matter” and “she needs to help herself”.

I am willing to concede that ignorance about how to deal with the situation contributes to such beliefs and that most people have no idea how such relationships end or what harm they do to the people involved. Before I get into statistics, here is the basic thing to keep in mind :

The DEFINITION of a good person excludes someone who beats up his girlfriend/ wife. So think this, he is the enemy, the bad person, the criminal, He is NOT a nice g uy. Someone who runs a brothel and uses the profits to educate slum kids is TWICE a sinner, first for running the brothel and killing the souls within it and second for poisoning the children he feeds. He is NOT a nice guy.

Now, the Science and statistics.

Physical abuse has not just physical effects, it affects the woman’s mental emotional and social health also.

A significant portion of women who have been abused do not seek medical help for the injuries themselves, but those who do, present with non specific and chronic pain and bruises from having “bumped into something”. Women who suffer long term abuse, and are battered are found to have more injuries in the head, face, neck, thorax,  breasts, and abdomen when compared women injured in other ways. 1

Many women also have to put up with forced sex from intimate partners, which results in sexually-transmitted diseases, bleeding or infection, fibroids, genital irritation, pain on intercourse, and urinary-tract infection. Studies show that the odds of having gynecological problems is upto 3 times more in victims of physical abuse.

Mental effects of abuse are quiet profound too, some studies have shown that the risk of depression and post traumatic stress disorder was higher for abuse victims than even those who have had childhood sexual abuse.

  • Fractures
  • Miscarriage
  • Depression
  • Major Surgery
  • lacerations requiring stitches
  • Sexually transmitted infections including HIV
  • Loss of vision/hearing

These are some of the prominent outcomes of intimate partner violence that most studies find. 2

In more than half of the cases of abuse, children are witnesses to it. And in upto 5% cases even the children are abused by the partners.

A study from rural south India showed that thirty-four percent of the women surveyed reported having ever been hit, forced to have sex by their husbands or both. Women belonging to lower caste, poorer households, having greater economic autonomy, and whose husbands consumed alcohol were more likely to report violence. Women’s economic autonomy and husbands’ alcohol consumption were significantly associated with violence,independent of caste and economic status. 3

Why does she not realize, react and seek help?

This is typical of a situation in abusive relationship. The reasons are a complex mixture. Many times health care workers who are the first to see the results of intimate partner violence fail to identify it or do nothing about it. This and the social approval for domestic abuse ensures that she “normalizes” the abuse. She is deluded, as people around her that she deserves it, or that he is otherwise nice, or that there is nothing that can be done to help her.

We need to realize that at this stage, it is no longer a personal matter, it is public. We need to step in. Perhaps there is a stressor, maybe the guy is mentally unstable, or there might be substance abuse, or maybe he is just a jerk, whatever be, if we stand by looking, we are accomplices to the slow murder of usr friend, soul first then her body.

Does she deserve it?
Is there any excuse for beating up ones spouse/girlfriend? Suppose she did provoke him, does that mean she should be beaten up?

Let me tackle the “its their personal matter” excuse again

If you see a robber getting into the house next door, do you go back to sleep because it’s a personal matter?

There is absolutely no difference, abusing ones mate is a crime and cases can be registered under Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005. Not just that, abuse, as you have seen above, has far reaching consequnces. If you know about it, you should react to it, you might be rejected or ridiculed or even shouted at but not doing anything is akin to abetting murder.

She cannot help herself, people like us who compose the society further make it difficult for her to come out, also she is probably lead to believe that it is her fate or that its ok.

He is not a nice guy.

photo by eyesonmephotography

References
1 Health consequences of intimate partner violence Jacquelyn C Campbell Lancet 20012; 359; 1331-36
2 Berrios DC, Grady D: Domestic violence-Risk factors and outcomes. West J Med 1991 Aug; 155:133-135
3 Krishnan, Suneeta(2005)'Gender, Caste, and Economic Inequalities and Marital Violence in Rural South
 India', Health Care for Women International,26:1,87 — 99

Are Rapists Victims?

There seem to be a serious confusion in the minds of our leaders and the common man alike about who is responsible for rape, the victim or the rapist. Things are so confusing that some even wonder if the poor rapist isn’t a victim of the crime of “incitement”.

“You can’t blame the locals; they have never seen such women. Foreign tourists must maintain a certain degree of modesty in their clothing. Walking on the beaches half-naked is bound to titillate the senses,”

This is a quote in response to the rape of a 6 year old Russian girl from no less than the deputy director of tourism of Goa, Pamela Mascarhenas.
So, should Ms Pamela release the rapist, who was apprehended the same day the quote was made, because after all he was titillated into the crime by an immodestly dressed six year old!

Unfortunately this is not an isolated sentiment of an ill-informed politician, a brief look at comments and discussions on eve-teasing would tell you that a majority still hold that more “obscenely” dressed dressed women get eve teased more, and that the onus is on women to avoid eve teasing. Why go on-line, even the deep philosophical discussions every Indian has at the tea shop echo the sentiments that women are somehow responsible for what happens to them, if not always, most of the time.

The reason why such an asinine logic has become so pervasive evades me, and if you dont think it is asinine, take a look at the root arguments:

if X does something “wrong” then Y is justified in doing anything wrong to X

(could be Hindi movies, bec the few Hindi movies I have seen have angry young men avenging the death/rape of their mothers/sisters by extreme violence. )

By this standard, if Ms. Pamela’s dog barks too much in the night, it is perfectly alright for her neighbor to poison it.

It is important that we separate the two actions from each other, and therefore the crime from the victim. Sure, a nocturnal canine opera is awful, but just because your sleep has been wronged and she is and idiot, you cannot poison her dog. You can picket, go on a hunger strike, or even talk things over with the owner, as impotent as these sound, but that’s the way, not murder.

If we all start killing irritating dogs, none of us would have any.

There is of course a bigger and more ignorant assumption underlying such statements. And that is that the human male, particularly in India is somehow a slave to his primal urges, never really having evolved his frontal cortex enough to be able to decide right from wrong. And so, like we would tip-toe around a sleeping giant, lest we wake him up, we should mollycoddle the male lest he be titillated and incited into doing something “unfortunate” and uncontrollable.

For those of you who didn’t catch the sarcasm of the previous paragraph, let me spell it out. Human beings, Indians, Pakistanis French or Greek, have the ability to resist their sexual urges, particularly in socially unacceptable situations.  If we did not, this world would have been one big orgy.

Why  a molester or a rapist commit the crime is a subject much studied and there is good evidence to show that it has nothing to do with the amount of flesh shown. Sexual assault of almost all kinds is related more to issues like power and control than sexual desire or urges. There is also a certain amount of risk-seeking or thrill seeking behavior involved. The rapist/molester gets his thrill by overpowering women and displaying his dominance. Almost all molesters started with less severe and easily overlooked forms of sexual assault and progress to more severe forms.

Dont belive me, read this paper [link]

The wonderful initiative by blank noise has made it very clear, not that we need evidence, that molesters don’t care about what you do or do not wear, people have been raped, whistled at, touched and pinched wearing burkas as well as saris. This adds to the clear evidence that victims of sexual crimes have absolutely no culpability.

This blatant criminal-victim-exchange not only increases the trauma to those affected, but it also makes the power hungry predator more confident of terrorizing women and getting away with it.

This post is a bit too late in joining the petition that blank noise has sent to the deputy director of tourism, but the fight doesnt end with a petition or a hundred, minds need to be enlightened, societies need to be changed, its a war out there, not a lover’s spat.

Having said that, I hope to write about the flip-side also, not about this particular case though, but about what the difference between personal responsibility and culpability is.