Let’s talk about shit

By the time you finish reading this sentence at least one child would have died in india of diarrhea. The most important cause of diarrhea is  contaminated drinking water and poor sanitation.

Rose George is a British journalist [wikipedia] and author whose book “The big nessecity [amazon]” addressed the issue of lack of sanitation as one of the greatest killers of the modern world.

This is her on Shit and India.

How/when did you get interested in sanitation?
It was a long story. I used to work at a magazine called COLORS, owned by but left alone by Benetton. The editor was Oliviero Toscani, famed for the scandalous Benetton ads. One day he decided to do a coffee-table picture book about shit called CACAS. I researched some of the very short texts that accompanied the pics and thought them fascinating. I was astonished that I could consider myself well-educated and not know, for example, that a quarter of the world’s population has no toilet. But I also learned that the topic of sanitation could be entertaining, and that urine can change the colour of your wallpaper, and that sewage in the streets probably led to the invention of high heels, and that kings used to defecate in public and eat in private. It is a rich, wide, deep and endlessly fascinating topic.

After the book, how do you keep being involved in the sanitation world-if you do
Yes, I do. I keep a blog about mostly sanitation matters at www.rosegeorge.com and still write op-eds here and there about sanitation.

I also do a lot of lectures about sanitation. In the last month, I gave a keynote speech to 2500 freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania, who had been assigned my book as part of the Penn Reading Project; then flew to Stockholm to hand out awards to journalists writing about sanitation and water; then to Hong Kong to talk at a conference of 1500 investors, to persuade them that shit is a scandalously underexploited resource, both as fertilizer and as energy.

What are, if there are, your most memorable experiences in India?

You don’t forget three days in a slum in a hurry. I originally intended to stay overnight in a slum but chickened out. I wouldn’t have been worried about the accommodation; all the houses I visited were pristine. But as soon as you step foot outside you are overwhelmed by filth. And of course, there are hardly any toilets. On the other hand, I met some fabulous people in India who I think of as sanitation footsoldiers. Milon Nag, who runs a plastics factory outside Pune and who has developed a low-cost plastic sanitation slab that is now regularly used in emergencies; Dr. Mapuskar, a doctor near Pune who arrived in his village – now a town – to find no toilets and became a sanitation evangelist, persuading 100% of people to install toilets and even human shit biogas digesters (a miracle in India); or the wonderful staff of Gram Vikas in Orissa, who are attempting to get villages to install 100% Total Sanitation. In one village they went to, it took 162 meetings for people to agree but they did and now disease has been dramatically diminished and the village school teacher told me 80% more girl children go to school. People think a toilet is a symptom of development but actually it can trigger it.
What are 3 easy-to-solve problems that governments and other agencies should tackle immediately?
1. Stop focusing on clean water at the expense of sanitation. There is no point installing one without the other.
2. Switch mindsets: Expensive wastewater utility systems are not always the solution. There is innovation in sanitation: use it.
3. Stop thinking that development has to cost a fortune. Invest in software like human behaviour change-makers. Persuasion doesn’t cost much but it can reap so much.

What are 2 of the knottier issues?
There is only one knotty issue: Diarrhoea. It is astonishing in 2010 that children die of something that is easily curable, and that they die at the rate of one every fifteen seconds. Astonishing and disgraceful.

How can the behavioural change be brought about rapidly- it happened within a generation in most of the world- why are some parts lagging behind so much?
Because often the investment goes to hardware and not to the software. Humans are complicated creatures. They can be persuaded but it takes marketing psychology. People have to want to use a toilet, and that is not always a straightforward thing to bring about, to someone who has been shitting in the bush quite happily for generations. There has to be investment in persuasion.

Some practical technological solutions?
Far too many to list. Practical Action does good fact-sheets on sanitation solutions. Akvopedia has a great database of technology.

We dont like talking about shit, its considered boorish and uncouth. But of all times now, we need to start talking about shit seriously. The sanitation challenge india faces is not going away anytime now, and is getting worse in some places like big cities.

I will be talking about shit in 1 or 2 more follow-up posts at the end of which I hope to have converted you into a fellow foot soldier for shit. In the mean time, do look through the Akovopedia portal on sanitaion for some great technologies that can radically reduce cost and improve outcome in implementing sanitation. Viva la revolution!

The Binayak Sen Digest -1

Below are some of the best writing on the web on the Binayak sen judgement, for and against. Text in Bold is  for emphasis.
The case of the good Doctor By Rakesh Shukla: an advocate at the Supreme Court of India.

A look at the trial court judgment convicting Dr Binayak Sen illustrates the hazards of retaining provisions like sedition on the statute books. The principal allegation against Dr Sen is of passing three letters written by jailed Naxalite leader Narayan Sanyal to unspecified people in Kolkata… Dr Sen had formally applied for permissions for each of the meetings as the General Secretary of the PUCL, permissions granted by the jail authorities. In fact, the jailors deposed that all of the meetings were strictly supervised, ruling out the possibility of any letters being exchanged between Sanyal and Dr Sen.

The choice of Dr Binayak Sen, a winner of international awards, for prosecution by the state would be really puzzling if the motive were not so obvious. The targeting of an individual like Dr Sen is not something initiated by a Superintendent of Police or an Inspector General of Police. It is but, undoubtedly, a high-level decision made by the powers-that-be to send a message to civil liberties activists to desist from highlighting atrocities committed by the state against people in Maoist-affected areas. Instead of starting a dialogue or addressing  inequalities in society that give rise to Maoist movements, it seems that the state is bent on breaking all forms of connection between the civil society and the Maoist rebels, as if to prepare a prelude to a military crushing,

DR.BINAYAK SEN & TWO OTHERS VS THE STATE By B. Raman: Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies.

The conviction and sentencing of Dr.Sen and two others have been questioned by the critics on grounds of the reliability of the facts as adduced before the court and the interpretation of the laws relating to sedition. There is apparently no independent corroboration of Guha’s statements that the documents allegedly written by Sanyal had been brought out of jail by Sen after one of his meetings with Sanyal and handed over to Guha. The conviction of Sen seems to have been based largely on the uncorroborated testimony of Anil Kumar Singh who claims to have heard Guha tell the police that Sen gave him the letters from Sanyal.

The awarding of the extreme penalty of life sentence on the basis of an independently uncorroborated testimony of a single witness has shocked the critics of the judgement. Questions have also been raised regarding the interpretation of the laws relating to sedition. To prove a charge of sedition, it is necessary to show that Sen—even if he had received the letters from Sanyal as alleged by the police— had intended to cause disaffection against the State and promote acts of violence.

A careful identification of the missing links in the chain and an examination of the evidence regarding the benign personality of Sen might have led to the mitigating circumstances being given greater weight than they apparently were. One would find it difficult to avoid the conclusion that the prosecution and the court had adopted a narrowly legalistic approach to the case without seeing it in the broader context

Our counter-insurgency operations against the Maoists should be more nuanced than they are at present—-marked by strong action against those in the hard core indulging in or advocating violence and a more sympathetic approach to those like Sen, who do not belong to the hard core and do not advocate violence. By treating both as no different from each other who deserve deterrent punishment, we will be driving more people who are now merely in the periphery into the arms of the hard core. The police should not unwittingly become a source of aggravation of the problem.

More detailed anylysis of the verdict and list of protests across India.

Once the central conspiratorial point and incident has been constructed in the judicial narrative, conspiratorial linkages between the three accused and their common causes and actions before the incident also needed to be established. This has been attempted in Pijush Guha’s case by a reference to his frequent visits to Raipur and a case pending in district Purulia, West Bengal. Judge Verma has ignored the fact that Guha was made an accused in the Purulia case after 6.5.2007, the date on which he is said to have been arrested in Raipur. This fact strongly generates a suspicion of afterthought by the police of the two states acting in collusion. Judge Verma’s verdict also naturally ignores the fact that Pijush Guha’s frequent visits are explained by his being a tendu leaf trader trading in the areas of Chhattisgarh.

3. That Binayak Sen had a close relationship with CPI (Maoist) is sought to be established by the unsubstantiated testimonies of police officials claiming that Sen and his wife Ilina Sen had assisted alleged hard core Maoists Shankar Singh and Amita Srivastava. Sen has not disputed that Shankar was employed by Rupantar – an NGO founded by his wife Ilina. Nor has he disputed that he and Ilina knew Amita Srivastava whom the latter, on the recommendation of a friend, had helped find a job in a school. But the Judge has just accepted the police’s word, without any other testimony or material evidence whatsoever that Shankar and Amita were Maoists.

4. Judge Verma has also wrongly concluded, on the basis of hearsay by the police, that one Malati employed by Rupantar was the same person as Shantipriya, also using the alias Malati, a Maoist leader’s wife convicted for 10 years in a case tried in another court in Raipur. The judge has not even mentioned or verified the defence evidence put on record that the Malati employed by Rupantar was actually Malati Yadav.

5. Judge Verma’s narrative seems to have a particular fondness for police hearsay as he has blindly accepted, without any corroboration by another witness or any material evidence, wild allegations made by police officials Vijay Thakur and Sher Singh Bande, officer in charge of Konta and Chhuria police stations respectively that Binayak Sen, his wife Ilina Sen and other PUCL members and human rights activists attended the meetings of Maoists in their respective areas. These officials have gone well beyond their Section 161 statements introducing documents not earlier annexed with the charge sheet, and all defence objections in this regard were overruled by the Judge.

Not to question why by Ramachandra Guha The author is a writer and political historian

In the eyes of the government of Chhattisgarh, the crime of Binayak Sen is that he dared question the corrupt and brutal methods used to tackle the Maoist upsurge. In 2005, the state government promoted a vigilante army that spread terror through the districts of Dantewada, Bijapur and Bastar. In the name of combating Naxalism, it burned homes (and occasionally, whole villages), violated tribal women, and attacked (and sometimes killed) tribal men who refused to join its ranks. As a result of its depredations almost a hundred thousand adivasis with no connection at all to Maoism were rendered homeless.

Sen was one of the first to document the excesses of the vigilante army, and to expose the hand of the state government in promoting it. That his charges were true I can confirm, for I visited the region shortly afterwards, in the company of a group of independent citizens, who included the respected editors BG Verghese and Harivansh, and the distinguished anthropologist Nandini Sundar, winner of the Infosys Prize. Our report, War in the Heart of India, provides a sober, non-ideological account of the crimes of the state and Union governments in this regard.

Sen’s conviction happened in a court subject to intimidation by a government run by (and I use the word advisedly) paranoid politicians (helped by sometimes paranoid police officers). His conviction will and should be challenged. As it stands, however, it is a disgrace to democracy. His brave wife commented on the verdict that if “one who has worked for the poor of the country for 30 years, if that person is found guilty of sedition activities and conspiracy, when gangsters and scamsters are walking free, I think it’s a scandalous situation”. Any reasonable Indian would concur.

A more or less Neutral article with some good questions:
The case of Dr. Sen By Mr. Arnab Author and Technology consultant.

One’s opinions then should be formed by considering two things—-the case against Dr. Sen and whether what he is being accused of should get the life sentence? From a general look at documents available on the Net, one can conclude that there is little credible evidence to establish that Dr. Sen was involved in the operational details of Maoist terrorist activities. The prosecution’s attempts to link him to ISI have been farcical.

However what is pretty clear, and that has not even been denied much also, is that Dr. Sen is a strong Maoist sympathizer.
He and his wife had been instrumental in getting jobs for people accused of being Naxalites but then again considering the kind of company the Sens kept, being Maoist sympathizers themselves, that is but natural.

According to the Chattisgarh Special Public Security Act (CSPSA), any kind of facilitation for members of unlawful organizations is a crime and by that token the case against Dr. Sen is strong.

Taking a step back, the larger issue is “Is it a democratic right to believe in “banned” philosophies and to facilitate the nominally non-violent activities (like passing their propaganda around or helping in their legal defense) of those who plan and engage in violence against the State”? Or in other words, is CSPSA by definition anti-democratic?
Dr. Sen’s case is a case which sits right in this twilight zone. Working tirelessly all his life for the uplift of the dispossessed, Dr. Sen has frequently found common cause with Naxalites and even if we accept his contention that he does not support their methods of violence, their goals and his overall philosophy has been congruent. Given this, it is only natural that the lines of cooperation between them would become blurred over the years and what the State considers active facilitation he would put down to legitimate political activity in support of people whose goals he supports.

Now for a post favoring the judgment, one of the very few that are intelligent and make any sense at all. Most of the Anti-Sen writing on the web is vitriolic rantings against Maoism and epistles of murderous rage by armchair philosophers about Dr. Sen’s “ideological war on the state of India”
Spurious protests over Binayak Sen By Kanchan Gupta editor of the Pioneer newspaper

A less charitable, and possibly unfair, explanation for Sen’s seemingly innocuous query to the judge — “What is Section 124A?” — is the contempt with which self-appointed civil liberties and human rights activists in this country hold the law of the land. Any law that seeks to impose the writ of the state and uphold the Constitution of the Republic of India, and hence, by definition, outlaws anarchy and subversion, apart from other crimes, is anathema to these champions of civil liberties and human rights as it militates against their libertarian agenda. “What law?” a civil rights activists mocked at me during a television debate on Sen’s conviction, “A law passed by Parliament of India? We refuse to accept its legitimacy.”

A fair assessment of the curious case of Binayak Sen would be incomplete without mentioning his admirable efforts to take healthcare to the poor, impoverished tribals of Chhattisgarh. Undoubtedly, Rupantar, set up by him and his wife Elina, has done remarkable work. Not many alumni of Christian Medical College in Vellore would give up lucrative careers at home and abroad to tend to the sick and the suffering in the interiors of Bastar. But somewhere along the line, the healer became an ideologue and a partisan in Chhattisgarh’s war against Maoists, choosing to align with Left extremism over apolitical humanism.

Sen was tried in an open court under laws that are equally applicable to all citizens of India; it was a fair trial, he had access to the best lawyers and at no stage was he starved of either legal advice or funds. This is in sharp contrast to the kangaroo courts where those who refuse to obey the Maoists’ diktat are summarily tried and executed. Those held ‘guilty’ by these ‘people’s courts’ are poor Adivasis and Dalits who are denied the right to appeal, a right Sen can exercise under the very laws which his supporters are now vociferously denouncing. If the higher judiciary finds the trial court has erred, Sen’s conviction will be set aside.

Worse, implicit in this threat of retribution is the mistaken belief that some are more equal than others and hence above the law. Or that courts must make a distinction between those deemed to be ideologically ‘correct’ and those who are ideologically ‘incorrect’, the prerogative to decide the correctness or incorrectness being that of the Lib-left intelligentsia.

Third, it’s a war being waged by the democratic Republic of India against those who want a totalitarian People’s Republic of Maoistan. In the first 10 months of this year alone Maoists have killed 577 civilians and 260 security forces personnel; they have lost 137 cadre in encounters. In this war, we can choose to be either with the state or the Maoists; there’s no halfway house because the future of our freedom, our liberty, our open society and our democracy is at stake. Binayak Sen exercised his choice.

Official Statement of the Medico Friends Circle on the Binayak Sen Judgement

We, the Medico Friend Circle, a national organization of health professionals, express our outrage at the verdict of the Raipur district and sessions court, on 24th December 2010, declaring Dr Binayak Sen, General Secretary of the Chhattisgarh People’s Union for Civil Liberties and Vice-President of the National PUCL, guilty of sedition and treason, and sentencing him to life imprisonment.

Dr Sen has an illustrious record of over 25 years of selfless public service in areas of health and human rights. He has been an active member and former convenor of the Medico Friend Circle. He has been closely associated with the Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, the Indian chapter of the People’s Health Movement. He is a pediatrician and is associated with a
number of hospitals and health programs that focus on reaching the most marginalized. In recognition of his work, the
Christian Medical College, Vellore conferred on him the Paul Harrison Award in 2004, which is the highest award given to an alumnus for distinguished service in rural areas. He continues to be an inspiration to successive generations of students and faculty. Many of his articles based on his work have been internationally appreciated.

His indictment under the draconian and undemocratic Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, 2006, and the Unlawful Activities(Prevention) Act, 1967 is utterly condemnable. Not only has the farcical nature of the trial been reported in themedia, the charges against Dr Sen, of engaging in anti-national activities, have been widely held as baseless. This judgment is an unacceptable attempt to intimidate and vilify those who advocate for the rights of the poor and the marginalized, and reveals the indiscriminate use of state machinery to stifle democratic dissent.

MFC believes that a great injustice has been done, not only to Dr Sen but also to the democratic fabric of this country. MFC salutes Dr Sen’s work, and demands that justice be delivered in his case.

International Post Graduate Certificate course in Health and Human Rights

The 7th International Post Graduate Certificate course in Health and Human Rights will be organized from 10Th January to 19th January 2011, at Mumbai. The 10 days intensive course is organised in collaboration with the Department of Civics and Politics, University of Mumbai. The main objective of the course is to prepare participants to understand and interact with the local, national and international systems relating health and human rights. And to have knowledge of (a) human rights standards (b) the supervisory mechanisms which encourage compliance; and (c) the ways in which practical
respect for human rights is fostered in concrete, practical terms.

The last date for submission of Application forms is 15th December, 2010.

For Application form and other details please visit www.cehat.org /

Be very very afraid

Mom has been calling me up everyday just to remind me that I should not go to work on 30th. Karnataka has declared a school holiday or a good 2 days “to keep the children safe”. My bank tells me that while it officially is working tomorrow, “we will have to look at the conditions” for me to pick up my ATM card. My pinter is working an extra shift tonight to finish work he is supposed to do tomorrow “kal ka kuch bol nahi sakte sir”.

While the home minister has boldly declared that he does not “foresee any problems” the CM’s of many sates have declared their inability to protect their law abiding citizens by declaring holidays. Tomorrow some hope for justice, some for retribution, and some just want it all over.

Violence lovers on both sides of the religious divide are looking for an excuse. Some will try to justify it as setting right the historical wrongs, one dead body in 2010 at at time.

Irrespective of your religion and political leanings, today is a day that any nation loving Indian needs to be ashamed. Ashamed that for 60 years we have voted into power people who played us on our fears and cultivated sectist fears. Ashamed that we have cultivated media that specialize in glorifying violence and shamed that we refuse to see that justice cannot be achieved by unlawful means

Religious goondagardi (extremism) ; green, saffron, pink or blue is not a just a political problem for it to be solved by parties, it is problem that needs to faced and tackled at the family level. The solution must be come at at the tea shop in the corner and the temple, mosque and church in the community. I hope we are not given anymore proof of this tomorrow than we already have.

We are a nation held captive by fear fulled by opportunist politicians and inept administration of justice. Fear is so common, that we forget how shameful it is. Our fears are that green and saffron will clash with swords and guns. We forget what the real fear should be, that it is the law abiding citizen that is afraid, not the thug, the rioter or the hatemonger. On either side of the religious divide, the criminal is eagerly and fearlessly waiting. No holiday for them tomorrow.

Satyameva Jayate- The Truth about truth in India

“Satyameva Jayate” (satyam-eva jayate सत्यमेव जयते) (Sanskrit: “Truth Alone Triumphs”) is the national motto of India. It is inscribed in Devanagari script at the base of the national emblem. The origin of the motto is a well-known mantra 3.1.6 from the Mundaka Upanishad. Full mantra as follows.

satyameva jayate nānṛtaṁ
satyena panthā vitato devayānaḥ |
yenā kramantyṛṣayo hyāptakāmā
yatra tat satyasya paramaṁ nidhānam ||

In devanāgarī :

सत्यमेव जयते नानृतम् सत्येन पन्था विततो देवयानः ।
येनाऽऽक्रमन्त्यृषयो ह्याप्तकामा यत्र तत् सत्यस्य परं निधानं ॥

Meaning:

Truth alone triumphs; not falsehood.
Through truth the divine path is spread out by which
the sages whose desires have been completely fulfilled,
reach where that supreme treasure of Truth resides.

From: Wikipedia

In the last week or so, I am sure you have bemoaned the corruption and general mess that prevails in India at least once. Corruption is so ubiquitous so pervasive that many times, we hardly notice it.  And while speaking about corruption is easy, doing something about it is very hard. It requires courage, integrity and an immense store of patience. If you speak out against it, you will be admired in private, ridiculed in public and harassed throughout your life.  In spite of this, it is reassuring to see that there are individuals and groups all across India engaged in fighting corruption using various tools and mediums.

I hope to introduce, as I get involved, Various such groups. I would like to begin with

1. Sanjay Uchav- @Nobribe who writes on the No Bribe Website and runs the Corruption free India Facebook group. Follow the site for regular articles about fighting corruption and practical ideas about how to do it yourself. He also regularly points out to both corruption and anti-corruption news from across the country. Mr. Uchav fights corruption from Bihar. You can even  see and contribute to a bribery rate card to see what the prevalent “rates” in your area are.

2. Sanjeev sabhlok author of the fabulous book “breaking free of nehru”  and founder of The Freedom Team of India, a political party in its inception that dreams to bring clean governance to India. he has started a group called “Boycott  Corrupt Politicians” on facebook, and you can join for updates on how to join the good fight. More about him

Now for an Explanation of the Post title.

Over at No Bribe, a great new post is up, about what truth really means in india for example

  • Law will take its own course actually means that it would go round and round forever without ever converging on the issue.
  • We will look into the incident actually means that everyone will soon forget it.
  • We will not leave the matter alone actually means that the matter will be given a silent burial.

Head over there for the full article – The art of Double speak.

Jalliyanwalla Bagh Mein Vasant: A poem by Subhadra Kumari Chauhan

April 13th 1919, Amritsar, the city was celebrating Baisakhi a traditional festival on which people celebrate the beginning of the harvesting season by congregating in community fairs. Unfortunately the biritsh had passed martial law in most of punjab expressly forbidding the meeting of more than 5 people. About 2000 people were packed in the garden called jalliyanwalla, in defiance of the prohibitory orders.

General Dyer, who later said;

I think it quite possible that I could have dispersed the crowd without firing but they would have come back again and laughed, and I would have made, what I consider, a fool of myself. –

ordered his brigade to open fire at the unarmed gathering.

The garden is surrounded by walls and has only one narrow entrance and so served as a death pit with no escape from the machine gun fire that followed the orders.

1579 was the body count by the civil surgeon.

In the memory of this incident, Subhadra kumari Chauhan wrote this touching poem.

यहाँ कोकिला नहीं, काग हैं, शोर मचाते,
काले काले कीट, भ्रमर का भ्रम उपजाते।

कलियाँ भी अधखिली, मिली हैं कंटक-कुल से,
वे पौधे, व पुष्प शुष्क हैं अथवा झुलसे।

परिमल-हीन पराग दाग सा बना पड़ा है,
हा! यह प्यारा बाग खून से सना पड़ा है।

ओ, प्रिय ऋतुराज! किन्तु धीरे से आना,
यह है शोक स्थान यहाँ मत शोर मचाना।

वायु चले, पर मंद चाल से उसे चलाना,
दुःख की आहें संग उड़ा कर मत ले जाना।

कोकिल गावें, किन्तु राग रोने का गावें,
भ्रमर करें गुंजार कष्ट की कथा सुनावें।

लाना संग में पुष्प, न हों वे अधिक सजीले,
तो सुगंध भी मंद, ओस से कुछ कुछ गीले।

किन्तु न तुम उपहार भाव आ कर दिखलाना,
स्मृति में पूजा हेतु यहाँ थोड़े बिखराना।

कोमल बालक मरे यहाँ गोली खा कर,
कलियाँ उनके लेये गिराना थोड़ी ला कर।

आशाओं से भरे हृदय भी छिन्न हुए हैं,
अपने प्रिय परिवार देश से भिन्न हुए हैं।

कुछ कलियाँ अधखिली यहाँ इसलिए चढ़ाना,
कर के उनकी याद अश्रु के ओस बहाना।

तड़प तड़प कर वृद्ध मरे हैं गोली खा कर,
शुष्क पुष्प कुछ वहाँ गिरा देना तुम जा कर।

यह सब करना, किन्तु यहाँ मत शोर मचाना,
यह है शोक-स्थान बहुत धीरे से आना।

Many died to grant us freedom, let us be careful lest we live ungrateful to their sacrifice.

Jai Hind.

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.

Salvageable?

Salvageable Adj: capable of being saved from ruin;

I was shocked the first time I heard my then boss asking a PG if the patient was “salvageable”. Comparing sick people to shipwrecks didn’t seem respectful or right but before long I found myself asking the same question when dealing with a sick patient, particularity one who was very sick and needed expensive and intensive care.
Wreck

If the patient was not “salvageable” and there was a “salvageable” patient waiting for that bed, then by unsaid rules, less time, effort and money would be spent on him/her, particularly if the patients relatives could not afford the treatment.

The truth about the god-like (read: Inhuman) choices that doctors working in resource-limited circumstances is rarely spoken about outside medical ethics seminars. On the rare occasion a news paper, a novel or even a sit-com decides to take up the topic, it receives nothing more than a few over the shoulder cliché’s about how real life is different from the books.
Salvageable? malnourished child
Chances are, no senior doc will sit a house surgeon down and explain tenderly that while all human life is sacred and deserves equal effort in saving, the ground realities force us to give preference to the young, the “salvageable” over the old or “un-salvageable” patients. That this does not make the old, terminally ill patient any less important or deserving of ones time and effort.

Yet day after day, thousands of “cases” are categorized and differentially treated. It is foolish to think that our actions do not affect us, the rare some learn to love humanity and do their best to bridge this unfair and gap while others learn to value life in terms of productivity and “salvagability” and are forever condemned to be less than human, for that is what you turn into, if you cannot see sanctity of life.

Someday, I hope there is reckoning and justice for the young lives scarred by the inhuman task they were given though we are not mere victims of our circumstances.