Posts Tagged ‘Education’

In 2007, India let its children down : UNICEF Report

December 12, 2007

New Delhi: Exactly a year ago, the chopped remains of some children of daily wage earners and migrants were recovered from a drain in Nithari, a village on the outskirts of the Indian capital.

For a country with a child population of over 445 million, of whom 126 million are less than five years old, the unearthing of 20 dismembered bodies of missing kids at the fag end of 2006 was a shocking revelation of how India neglects its children. Most of children had been sexually abused and mutilated.

One year later, India continues to be among the worst performers in the world in terms of ensuring that children have the basic right to survive, even though policies and processes for their protection and development are in place.

As per Unicef’s Progress for Children report released in December 2007, an estimated 2.1 million children in India died before their fifth birthday in one year. Of these, one million deaths were of neonates, or less than 29-day-old infants, from preventable causes. Globally, this means a quarter of all neo-natal deaths in the world occurred in India.

Among the surviving infants, 8.3 million infants were low weight babies (less than 2,500 grams), who got a disadvantaged start in life. Nearly 50 per cent of these low weight babies died before their fifth birthday. In fact, about one-third of less-than-five-year-old underweight children in the world are in India.

The country has made significant advances towards eradication of polio but the programme suffered setbacks in 2007 with the virus continuing to circulate and resurface in some states like Bihar.

Quoting from the report, a Unicef advocacy and partnership official, said: “India has the largest number of children in the world who have not been vaccinated.”

The country, however, is doing well with respect to providing safe drinking water, the key factor in ensuring child survival. It is estimated that 84.5 per cent rural and 95 per cent urban populations have sustainable access to safe drinking water.

But poor hygiene leading to diarrhoea and other diseases continues to take its toll on India’s children. In 2004, an estimated 700 million people in India were not using improved sanitation facilities. According to the National Family Health Survey data (2005-06), only 45 per cent of households in the country had access to improved sanitation.

On the education front, the news is mixed. Globally, the number of dropouts has declined significantly – from 115 million in 2002 to 93 million in 2005-06. Considering that six to 10 is the primary school age in India, 84 per cent of children are attending school.

Gender parity in education is a challenge for India. For 100 boys in primary school, there are 96 girls and for 100 boys in secondary school, there are only 80 girls. Nearly all children out of school are engaged in different forms of labour.

It is estimated that while globally 158 million children aged between 5 and 14 work as labourers, India accounts for 18 percent of the world’s burden – approximately 29 million.

Said a Unicef spokesperson: “Much like the public outcry that ensued following the discovery of children’s remains in Nithari, a similar alacrity is needed to ensure that India’s children get their due. To make India fit for children, a social movement is the need of the hour.”

The Nithari case is still in court while the accused – Moninder Singh Pandher and his domestic help Surinder Koli – are in police custody.

Only 8 % of Indians go for higher education

November 29, 2007

Only eight percent of Indian students finishing school go for higher education – compared to 20 per cent in China – and the country needs 1,500 new universities in the next seven years to bridge the shortfall of skilled workers, India’s Knowledge Commission has said.

The 82nd annual conference of the Association of Indian Universities (AIU) that came to an end here Wednesday saw some such hard truths being spoken about universities in India.

The three-day meet at the Anna University campus discussed the content of the Knowledge Commission policy and the various higher education policies being implemented in India at present.

‘Higher education sets the standards for development,’ said Y.C. Simhadri, AIU president.

A Knowledge Commission report has said that India would need 1,500 new universities in the next seven years.

It also says that only eight percent of Indian students finishing school go for higher education. In China, the figure is 20 percent while in developed countries, as much as 70 percent students leaving school go to college.

Nasscom chairman and Cognizant chief N. Lakshmi Narayanan said India may face a shortfall of half a million skilled workers by 2010 if universities do not churn out well-trained students.

‘If India wants to be a knowledge economy, it will need 2.3 million professionals in three years time,’ he added.

‘The need of the hour is to create more research parks in the country and encourage innovation by students,’ he said. He advocated that a statutory body should be given the task of enforcing regulation.

‘A major cause of concern about higher education in India is the regulatory system.’

Pitching for self-regulation, he said: ‘This may well be the time for the country’s academic leaders to evolve a new self-regulatory regime that puts the onus of maintaining standards on the collective wisdom of academicians.’

He also advocated the need to look at opening up the education sector to foreign universities to ensure a steady flow of globalised talent.

Narayanan said that Nasscom is planning to introduce a National Assessment of Competence-Technical (NAC-Tech) that would test the skills of technical graduates from higher education institutions across the country.

Tamil Nadu Minister for Higher Education K. Ponmudi, in his opening address, said in many Indian universities, especially the private ones,today ‘we have a situation where the father is the chancellor of the deemed university, one son is the pro-chancellor and another is the vice-chancellor.’

‘Where is the space for scholarly academicians to lead such institutions into latest and relevant research and produce brilliant students?’ he asked.

‘Most vice chancellors give more importance to administrationthan academics,’ the minister charged.

‘You should concentrate more on academics because that alone can help improve the quality of institutions,’ he told the gathering of 150 vice chancellors from Indian universities and delegates from 20 foreign universities, including France and the Netherlands.

‘We only have vice chancellors, whereas we need wise chancellors!’ was his parting shot.

INDIAENEWS.COM From correspondents in Tamil Nadu, India,  Nov 29, 2007

17 million children in India work out of compulsion

November 14, 2007

Children’s Day under the shadow of the rape of childhood

We observe November 14, the birthday of the first Prime Minister of India, Chacha Nehru as Children’s Day. But a look at the condition of children in India makes one question the significance of November 14?  Do we really cherish our future citizens?

THE DEFINITION OF a ‘child’ in the Indian legal and policy framework is someone below 18 years. Our laws are neither child friendly nor child oriented. Here are few figures:

* Less than half of India’s children between the age of six and 14 go to school.
* Only 38 per cent of children below two years are immunized.
* Over 50 per cent children are malnourished.
* One out of every six girls does not live to see her 15th birthday.
* Of 12 million girls born, one million do not see their first birthday.
* Females are victimized far more than males in their childhood.
* 53 per cent of girls in the age group of five to nine years are illiterate.
* There are two million child commercial sex workers between the age of five and 15 years.
* 17 million children in India work out of compulsion, not out of choice.

The child is the future of a nation. But children are a neglected lot in India, which is evident from the distressing statistics of infant mortality, child morbidity, child malnutrition, childhood disability, child abuse, child labour, child prostitution, street children, child beggary, child marriage, juvenile delinquency, drug addiction and illiteracy.

Trafficking in humans, including children, is a violation of the fundamental rights of human beings. International estimates indicate that at least 1.2 million children are trafficked each year, many of them subjected to prostitution, forced into marriage or unpaid labour, or are recruited into armed groups. Child labour is, generally speaking, work undertaken by children that harm them or exploit them in some way (physically, mentally, morally, or by blocking access to education). 40 per cent of India’s population is below 18 years of age. At 400 million, we have the world’s largest child population. At 17 million, we have the ‘distinction’ of being home to world’s largest population of child labourers. These are official figures; activists say that the real number is even larger.

Constitutions of most countries, including India, have provisions forbidding child labour. Its elimination is one of the millennium development goals adopted unanimously by the United Nations.

Children should not have to work for a living. Childhood is when a person needs nurturing, schooling, time to play and explore, and opportunity to grow, both emotionally and physically. When a child is forced to work, it hampers his growth, stunts his psychological and intellectual development, and prevents him from realising his full potential.

Child labour is an unmitigated evil and any society that suffers from it should be grossly ashamed of that fact. Child labour, trafficking are symptoms, not the problem. The problem lies elsewhere and unless the problem itself is addressed, merely addressing the symptoms makes the situation immensely worse for the victim children.

In India, children’s vulnerabilities and exposure to violations of their protection rights remains spread and multiple in nature. There are a wide range of issues that adversely impact on children in India, making them especially vulnerable. With such future citizens in large numbers, the future of our country is bleak.

Rishabh Srivastava, MeriNews.COM, 13 November 2007, Tuesday

Absent teachers resulting in 22.5 % education funds India

August 14, 2007

A classroom struggle

Schools be damned. That seems to be the only message that keeps getting hammered with every disheartening report on the status of schooling in India. If last week it was the severe step of having to file FIRs against teachers in the face of a staggering number of cases of abuse of children, a Unesco report has found that 25 per cent of teachers do not bother with attending school. Absent teachers result in a whopping 22.5 per cent of education funds being wasted. Add to this a previous report compiled by the Ministry of Human Resource Department that shows 23,000 schools across India have no teacher, and the picture is frightening. The cataclysmic deterioration in government education services, coupled with corruption and a bureaucratic set-up that dissuades many private players from starting schools has at its crux one issue: the lowering standards of teachers in India.

The bar is so low today that the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights’ (NCPCR) proposal to expand the definition of corporal punishment to cover any form of adverse treatment meted out to schoolchildren is actually welcome. The Delhi High Court banned corporal punishment six years ago. According to the panel, school officials may be jailed for scolding students or calling them ‘stupid’ or ‘mindless’. The commission has also asked parents to fearlessly file FIRs against teachers and officials if their wards are rapped on the knuckles, made to run on the school ground or kneel for hours, beaten with a ruler, pinched and slapped. The restrictions may seem severe, but we can get some perspective once we consider that sexual abuse of minors is one of the most reported crimes today. States have been cavalier in enforcing the ban on corporal punishments, despite the fact that the National Policy on Education’s recommendation of banning physical punishment more than two decades ago.

India’s teacher problem is multi-dimensional. From recruitment to training, from remuneration to accountability, the teaching community has failed schools on most counts. Until teacher reform is addressed in a far more aggressive and scientific manner, there is little hope that the much-flaunted demographic dividend can ever be utilised for a knowledge economy.

August 13, 2007, Hindustan Times

Australia breeding ground even for HindutvaTerrorists

July 12, 2007

Australia may be a new home for fundamentalists, if the Delhi Police investigation about a threatening religious hate mail from an unknown Hindu religious group to Congress president Sonia Gandhi and member of National Integration Council John Dayal is considered.

Deputy Commissioner of Police, Economic Offences Wing, Prabhakar told Hindustan Times: “We have received the email and are trying to locate its origin. The complaint is being investigated”.

John Dayal, who received the mail recently, said, “I was shocked to see the letter in an envelope bearing Australian postage stamps and marking. There was a print from a website saying devout Hindus stop conversion in Madhya Pradesh and a page full of derogatory remarks”.

The letter asked all Christians, including Sonia Gandhi, to leave the country and mentioned that former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was killed by a Hindu. “Keep doing this and see what we can do,” the letter said, referring to conversions of Hindus into Christians and Gandhi’s assassination.

The hate mail also contains derogatory and unparliamentary remarks against Gandhis not fit to be reproduced.

Recently, Australian Prime Minister John Howard said that his country is harbouring would-be terrorists who may want to launch attacks like those witnessed in United Kindgom last month.

A government research reported by an Australian newspaper said that in Sydney alone there may be 3,000 young Muslims, who are in a danger of being radicalized by fundamentalist groups.

Dayal says the mail received by him clearly demonstrates that even Hindu fundamentalist groups have a strong base in Australia. “It appears that Australia is emerging as a base for Indian fundamentalist groups loyal to Al Queeda or Hindutva fundamentalist organizations,” he said.

Number of Indians is growing in Australia with the country being a new education destination for Indian students. Every year about 30,000 Indian students land in Australia for education as compared to just 10,000 in 2001 and 500 in early 1990s. One of such students, Mohammad Haneef, resident of Bangalore, was detained in Australia last Monday in connection with the Glasgow explosions.

July 11, 2007, Chetan Chauhan , Hindustan Times

21.9 million disabled in India, 2.13 % of the total population

July 5, 2007

Enabling the 21.9 million disabled persons in India

With India signing the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, laws pertaining to the disabled are likely to undergo a dramatic change. V. Kumara Swamy reports

A fortnight ago, NGO activist Rajiv Ranjan was denied permission to board a flight from Chennai to New Delhi because he was a cerebral palsy patient. Later, the directorate general of civil aviation pulled up the guilty airline. Had there been more awareness about the rights of disabled people and had clear guidelines been issued, the incident could have been avoided, sparing Ranjan needless humiliation.

Shikar Narang also underwent similar humiliation. A dyslexic student, he scored 75 per cent marks in Class XII, and wished to join the University of Delhi (DU) under its three per cent disability quota. But he was denied admission.

The university wasn’t aware that dyslexia came under the purview of the Persons with Disability Act, 1995. Narang challenged the university through a rights group. Finally, Delhi High Court ordered DU to treat dyslexia as a disability.

There are many disabled citizens who face such hurdles not only because of a lack of comprehensive definition of disability in the law, but also because of a lack of understanding of policy-makers about the problems of the disabled and insensitivity towards their rights as individuals.

And this is despite the fact that they constitute 2.13 per cent of the total population. According to the 2001 census, there are 21.9 million persons with disabilities in India. Yet, only 34 per cent of the disabled are employed.

But now there is good news around the corner. With India signing the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on March 31 this year, and signalling that it will ratify it soon, laws in India are likely to undergo a dramatic change.

The convention describes discrimination on the basis of disability as “any distinction, exclusion or restriction on the basis of disability which has the purpose or effect of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal basis with others, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field. It includes all forms of discrimination, including denial of reasonable accommodation.”

“The convention is a blueprint to end discrimination and exclusion of the physically and mentally disabled in education, jobs and everyday life,” says Ratnabali Ray, founder of Anjali, a Calcutta-based non governmental organisation that works for the mentally disabled.

So those deprived to date have reason to rejoice. “All of us in the disability sector are very happy that India has signed the convention. It means that in addition to our existing laws, the Indian government will now have to adhere to clear-cut international standards and expectations and will also be subject to greater scrutiny,” says Javed Abidi, executive director, National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP), Delhi. “At present, gross discrimination takes place all the time, especially in the private sector. After the convention is adopted and its various tenets become firmly applicable, that would no longer be possible.”

Some of the measures that India would have to take include anti-discrimination legislation, eliminating laws and practices that discriminate against persons with disabilities, and considering persons with disabilities when adopting new policies and programmes. Other measures include making services, goods and facilities accessible to persons with disabilities.

Rukmini Sen, a lecturer at the National University of Juridical Sciences, Calcutta, highlights another pertinent point. “The most important change that we need is a new definition of disability. The manner in which disability is defined in the Persons with Disability Act, 1995, is a medical understanding of disability. The UN Convention gives a comprehensive combination of medical, social and human rights perspective to disability,” she says.

Some other changes, which have been demanded for long by activists working in the field, are also expected. “The signing of this law means that we have to do away with the Mental Health Act which segregates the feeble-minded and mentally ill for other people’s safety, purity, and to keep society sanitised. That is a colonial concept,” says Ray.

The government would also have to change its local by-laws and make it compulsory for buildings to be easily accessible to the disabled. “Going by the convention, building by-laws of all the states have to change. Transportation also needs to be changed keeping disability in mind,” says Sen.

However, in spite of India having ratified the treaty, it will come into force only after 20 signatories ratify it. Currently, Jamaica is the only country to ratify it. “The secretariat of the convention expects the 20 ratifications by the year’s end,” says Edoardo Bellando of the UN department of public information, New York.

Once the convention comes into force, a committee on the rights of persons with disabilities will monitor its implementation. Countries that ratify the convention will need to report regularly on their progress to the committee.

However, people in the field are divided over India opting out of the optional protocol which would have meant that anybody in the country could have appealed to the UN body under the convention, in case the country was not abiding by the rules. Sen says that by not signing the optional protocol, “accountability in a way has been squandered”.

Ray, however, disagrees. “I feel that it is the right thing to do. India is self-reliant. It can and will take care of addressing violations through its national instruments. We certainly do not want foreign agencies to interfere,” she says.

The onus is now on the Indian government to implement the laws. But the disability organisations will also have to ensure that the government keeps the pledge it makes by ratifying the convention, stresses Bellando.

The ministry for social justice and empowerment has set the ball rolling. “We have approached the Law Commission to suggest changes to various laws to adhere to the convention and once they come out with a report, we will proceed accordingly on this matter and place the amendments before Parliament,” says Ashish Kumar, deputy director general, ministry of social justice and empowerment.

According to the ministry, certain changes to the Persons with Disability Act have already been proposed and consultation seminars in various parts of the country are being held to fine-tune the changes.

“The sincerity of the government of India will be tested, and if we unite and fight for our legitimate rights, I am sure tomorrow will belong to us,” says Abidi.

The Telegraph , Calcutta, 4 July 2007

54 % Indians back UN probe on Human rights abuses in India

July 4, 2007

Majority of Indians are likely to support an investigation by United Nations on human rights violations in india, a survey result released by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) of Philippines said Monday. 54 % Indians welcomed UN probe on Human rights abuses in their own country while only 29 % opposed to such an action.

Globally, support for “giving the UN the authority to go into countries in order to investigate violations of human rights” had on the average 64% in favor and 23% opposed. Most people in 13 countries are in favor of such UN investigations, led by an overwhelming 92% of the French, followed by Americans (75%), Peruvians (75%) and South Koreans (74%).

But Filipinos are 46% in favor and 46% opposed to such UN investigations. Filipinos show the highest opposition to this idea, followed by Israelis (31%).

France scored the highest with 92 percent of the respondents saying that they are privy to a UN-led human rights probe in their country.

South Korea (74%), Armenia (67%), Ukraine (66%) and Russia (64%) also gave their thumbs up to the UN rights investigation.

The survey also showed the majority of the people in Poland (58%), China (57%), and Thailand (52%) will permit the UN to investigate human rights abuses in their own countries.

The survey was done during the third and fourth quarters in the Philippines and was commissioned by the SWS, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and the WorldPublicOpinion.org.

The study was conducted in 18 countries including China, India, the United States, Indonesia, Russia, France, Thailand, Ukraine, Poland, Iran, Mexico, South Korea, the Philippines, Australia, Argentina, Peru, Israel, Armenia and the Palestinian Territories

The margin of error was +/- 3 percent.

The Philippines is considered a special case in the international human rights arena.

Philippine-based human rights group have been saying that over 800 cases of forced disappearances among the ranks of labor and left-wing activists took place after President Arroyo assumed office in 2001.

Complainants said that the Philippine military is behind the abductions.

Earlier this year, the UN sent Philip Halston to conduct an investigation into the cases of human rights abuses that took place during the term of Mrs. Arroyo.

The President also created a special commission headed by a retired Supreme Court justice to conduct its own probe into cases of alleged human rights abuses.

http://www.sws.org.ph/pr070702.htm

Indian teachers ‘purify’ low caste students with cow urine

April 23, 2007

Mumbai, April 22, 2007 ,

Indian teachers have been sprinkling cow urine on low-caste students to purify them and drive away evil.

In India, millions of people formerly known as “untouchables” remain oppressed at the bottom of the ancient Hindu caste system.

The Times of India reported yesterday that upper-caste headteacher Sharad Kaithade ordered the ritual after taking over from a lower-caste predecessor at a school in a remote village in the western state of Maharashtra earlier this month.

He told an upper-caste colleague to spray cow urine in a cleansing ceremony as the students were taking an examination, wetting their faces and their answer sheets, the newspaper said.

“She said you’ll study well after getting purified,” student Rajat Washnik was quoted as saying by the CNN-IBN news channel. Students said they felt humiliated.

Hinduism reveres the cow, and its dung is used in the countryside as both a disinfectant and as fuel.

In 2001, Hindu nationalists promoted cow’s urine as a cure for ailments ranging from liver disease to obesity and even cancer.

The newspaper said the two teachers were arrested after angry parents complained to police. They have been released on bail.

India’s secular constitution bans caste discrimination, but Dalits – those at the bottom of the caste system – are still commonly beaten or killed for using a well or worshipping at a temple reserved for upper castes, especially in rural areas.

Dalits, once known as untouchables, make up around 160 million of India’s billion-plus population.

In February, the New York-based Human Rights Watch group said India was failing to protect its lower-caste citizens, who were condemned to a lifetime of abuse because of their social status.

Reuters

Betis As Bombs – Exploding The Borders Of Caste And Community

April 14, 2007

In every house there is a live bomb that can erupt at any time. Do you know who that is? Daughters are the honour of the family and the community, and to protect that is our Hindu duty and Hindu culture… . Come, and let’s unite to save bombs… I don’t believe in love marriage. We have to marry within our own community. These girls go to college, make friends with some lafanga [loafer], roam with them on their bikes, fall in love, and then run off and get married…We bring them back and convince them that they are ruining their future. They stay with me for a while and then return to their parents.” – Babu Bajrangi, Frontline, Dec 16-29 2006

Bajrangi is the VHP leader who gained notoriety recently for being the unofficial censor for the film Parzania in Ahmedabad. Less known in the fact that he boasts of having ‘rescued’ (kidnapped) no less than 918 women from his Kadwa Patel community who eloped to marry men outside the community – 70% of whom were Muslim or Christian men, and the rest were from other sub-castes.

The Gujarat genocide was marked by the rape of Muslim women and mutilation of their bodies by the Sangh Parivar. Such rapes were celebrated as acts of nationalism. Bajrangi’s acts of ‘rescue’ of Hindu women from marriages with ‘other’ men are also projected as acts of nationalism. The borders of caste and (religious) community need to be policed for infiltration from the enemy with as much vigilant surveillance as the borders of the nation. In fact, the border of each community (and family within it) is the border of nation in microcosm. The difference is that the borders of the family and community are lined with explosive from within. They are forever vulnerable because the sexuality of their own daughters has the potential to explode those boundaries and call into question the very foundation of racial purity on which the cultural nationalism of the Hindu Rashtra rests.

There are many who hold Hindutva’s violent codes to be a kind of Talibanic aberration and appeal to Hindus to distinguish it from the essentially liberal soul of Hinduism. See for instance Sitaram Yechury’s piece written in the wake of the Babri Masjid demolition, titled Pseudo-Hinduism Exposed: The Reality of the Saffron Brigade’s Myths. This piece explicitly contrasts liberal Hinduism to the impostor – ‘pseudo-Hinduism’ or Hindutva. Typically, this piece attributes India’s democracy to the choice in favour of secular democracy made by its Hindu majority and contrasts it with intolerant Islamic theocracies (implying that those theocracies are attributable to the choice made by intolerant Islamic majority?). As an extension of this thesis, Yechury observes, “The rabid intolerance of other religions (in Islamic theocracies) is matched by ruthlessly suppressive laws that deny elementary democratic rights especially to women.” The implication is that India in contrast assures those democratic rights to its women.

But it would be a mistake to imagine that this aspect of Hindutva – Bajrangi’s brand of violent policing of women, or the Bajrang Dal’s threat issued a few years back, that Hindu women who married Muslims would have their noses cut off, or its periodic threats against women wearing jeans or couples celebrating Valentine’s Day – marks a rupture with a gentler and more benign Hinduism. Communal fascism of the Hindutva variety draws sustenance from the widely prevailing anxiety of Hindu caste communities about breaching of patriarchal codes, caste and community boundaries – and the resultant threat to property relations and status. These anxieties are not the unique preserve of ‘backward’ rural communities; Prem Chowdhry shows us how modern phenomena like granting of legal inheritance rights to women and the social consequences of urbanisation in Haryana intensify these anxieties and the resultant violence against those who disobey marriage codes. (‘Enforcing Cultural Codes: Gender and Violence in Northern India’, A Question of Silence: The Sexual Economies of Modern India, ed. Mary John and Janaki Nair, 1998)

Uma Chakravarti has remarked how brahminical patriarchy has for long regarded women of upper castes as ‘gateways’ or points of breach into the caste system – requiring careful surveillance to preserve upper caste purity – and this “obsessive concern with policing female sexuality” has become a stubborn feature across caste groups (Uma Chakravarti, Gendering Caste: Through a Feminist Lens, 2003, pp 35-36). She notes that there is “widespread ‘consent’, in the sense that Gramsci outlines it, within civil society to regard choice, particularly when articulated by a woman as disruptive of the whole social order…and ‘with free choice of partners involving women, the whole social fabric seems to suffer a terrible tear’.” (Chakravarti, pp152-53) It is the existence of such consent for obsessive control of women’s sexual choice, such widespread fear of a ‘terrible’ tear inflicted by women’s free choice, that sustains and ‘naturalises’ Bajrangi’s mass abduction spree as a patriotic act. Bajrangi’s mass abductions are able to masquerade as a grotesque version of a more common ideology and practice of ‘guardianship’ (brother as guardian of sister’s honour) celebrated by popular cinema and serials and normalised by the festival of Raksha Bandhan. Adult women are legally beyond the scope and control of ‘guardianship’. Yet the ideology of guardianship (closely tied up with control of female sexuality, reproduction and labour) and its twin, the ideology that makes women the repositories of izzat or honour of the community/nation is perpetuated. The ‘honour’ killings decreed by caste panchayats for lovers who transgress codes of caste and community and Bajrangi’s abductions thus breathe the same ideological oxygen.

This leads us to ask: can Left movements and women’s movements challenge communal fascist violence against women without also challenging the ideology of guardianship and izzat? In the case of agrarian labour communities, usually dalit or extremely backward, there is tremendous resistance to the sexual exploitation of women by upper caste men, and Chakravarti notes that the “issue of izzat is central to peasant movements in Bihar under various Marxist-Leninist formations and in dalit movements” (Chakravarti, p 169). While resistance to sexual violence will continue to be a powerful mobilisational issue, these movements need to be alert to the dangers of the connotations and implications of izzat. These movements must guard against bearing the baggage of resentment against the upper caste taunts that lower caste women have no izzat to begin with or that lower caste men are ‘unable’ to ‘protect’ ‘their’ women. In other words, such radical political mobilisation must assert the autonomy and freedom of women who are dalit agrarian labourers – and must guard against framing the struggle in terms of asserting the ‘ability’ of lower caste men to ‘protect’ the ‘izzat’ of women and of their community. This means asserting the sexual freedom and autonomy of women within the community as much as against the oppressor without.

We need to recognise the links between Babu Bajrangi’s assaults on women’s freedom, and those structures and practices that we tend to take as normative, natural and acceptable – such as the practice of arranging marriages within one’s caste and community, disapproving of independent relationships forged by one’s sisters or daughters, holding oneself to be the ‘guardian’ of one’s sisters or daughters, and so on. Often, as long as overt coercion or violence is not involved, we tend to view anxiety about controlling sexual behaviour of daughters, as quite natural. Women’s movements and Left movements must confront and challenge the ideology of guardianship and izzat even where overt coercion is not flaunted – as part of their struggle against the structures of class and caste, and against communal fascism.

By Kavita Krishnan, 12 April, 2007, Countercurrents.org

Two out of every three children in India are physically abused

April 10, 2007

Two out of every three children in India are physically abused, according to a landmark government study.

Commissioned by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, the study says 53% of the surveyed children reported one or more forms of sexual abuse.

This is the first time the government has done such an exhaustive survey on the controversial issue of child abuse. Abuse of children, particularly sexual abuse, is rarely admitted in India and activists have welcomed the study. Releasing the report at a press conference in the capital, Delhi, Minister for Women and Child Development Renuka Chowdhury said: “In India there’s a tradition of denying child abuse. It doesn’t happen here is what we normally say.

“But by remaining silent, we have aided and abetted the abuse of children.”

Thousands quizzed

Describing the findings of the study as “disturbing”, Ms Chowdhury called for an end to the “conspiracy of silence”.

The issue of child abuse has been raised in the past by non-governmental organisations, but this is the first time an attempt has been made by the government to document the scale of the problem.

The study took two years to complete, and covered 13 states where 12,247 children (between five and 12) and 2,324 young adults (over the age of 12) were quizzed.

Dr Loveleen Kacker, the official in charge of child welfare in the ministry, compiled the report.

She said the study had revealed that contrary to the general belief that only girls were abused, boys were equally at risk, if not more.

She said a substantial number of the abusers were “persons in trust and care-givers” who included parents, relatives and school teachers.

Dr Kacker said a disturbing finding of the study had been that 70% had not reported the abuse to anyone.

Besides surveying physical and sexual abuse, the study also collected statistics on emotional abuse and neglect of girls.

The study called for efforts to make society aware of the rights of children and officials say the data will help them formulate better policies to protect children.

‘One too many’

The report has been welcomed by child rights activists who say such a study was sorely needed in India.

Roland Angerer, country director of Plan International, told BBC News it was “very important that the government has finally taken up the issue”.

“It doesn’t matter what statistics say. Whether the percentage of abused children is 75 or whether it is 58 is unimportant. Each child that is abused is one too many,” he said.

“It’s important that parents and adults must learn that children are not property, that they have rights too.”

In India, parents are often reluctant to admit child abuse and sexual abuse of children involving family members is almost always hushed up.

Perhaps that is why – as the study shows – more than 50% of the young adults surveyed wanted the matter of abuse to remain within the family.

Only 17% of the abused young adults wanted harsh punishment for the abusers.

Officials and activists say the biggest challenge for the authorities and society is to ensure that children are encouraged to report abuse.

India is home to almost 19% of the world’s children. More than one-third of the country’s population – 440m people – is made up of children below 18 years of age.

According to one study, at least 40% of these children are in need of care and protection.

The country has millions of child workers.

Many are employed in hazardous industries and also in homes and small restaurants, which makes them vulnerable to violence and exploitation.

Last year the government banned children under 14 from being employed in homes and at restaurants to avoid their exploitation and abuse, but millions of children continue to work in these sectors.

India is a signatory to various international laws on the protection of children, but implementation of these laws is often lax.

BBC NEWS , Geeta Pandey, 9 April 2007,