Friday, December 2, 2011

Journalists unanimous that conflict coverage is less than optimal in South Asia... Observations from Media Summit

Another South Asian Media Summit was held in Goa Nov 23-25, 2011, sponsored by Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, a German government funded organisation. The theme of this year's summit was 'Inter-State Conflict and the role of the media'.

I was a bit disheartened that more than two-thirds of experienced journalists from almost all South Asian countries (except Bangladesh and the Maldives) were male, as compared to last year's summit which had more women journalists attending, predictably because the theme was 'gender'.

Nonetheless, very insightful experiences were shared and impassioned arguments made, which prompted me to share my thoughts (in no particular order) in this blog post...

- The first session implied that South Asia has the most protracted inter-state conflicts and this made me curious. Do we know which region of the world has had the most conflicts within its own peoples? Might be a good research topic...

- Mohsin Babbar, a journalist and one of the few experts on the Indus water dispute in Pakistan, mentioned that the Aman ki Asha program was a good India-Pak peace initiative.

- Have you heard the term proxy war? I never really understood what it meant until someone at the summit explained it as militant groups that fight each other on behalf of governments so that actual governments don't look bad. What a sham!

- How do you see the link between politics and media? Do you think the media is politicised or do you think there is a mediaisation of politics? I guess both are true today...

- It was suggested to watch the Wikileaks video of the journalist being gunned down by a helicopter pilot in Iraq to hamper his coverage of the conflict. An act that proves the US is embarrassed about their bloody activities in Iraq?

- A Sri Lankan academic at the University of Peredeniya 'Carmen Wickramagamage' astutely pointed to Louis Althuser, a French Marxist's observation years ago that the State perpetuates dominant ideology through the media. I'm sure the same can be argued for the corporate world.

- She also pointed out an unfortunate editorial about a Lesbian conference in Colombo, which incited rape to 'show them the right way'. When a gay rights organisation complained to the press council, they responded that the newspaper was right to publish the offensive editorial because lesbians are 'sadistic'.

- Snigdhendu Bhattacharya, a reporter who spent several years telling the story of the people of Lalgarh said 'One percent of Jharkhand rule and one percent of the state's population engage in armed conflict. Reporters need to represent the remaining 98%. Reporters need to be activists representing the people's voices'. Bravo!

- Vipul Mudgal presented an 'inclusive media for change' website that provides analysis the press can use to better cover development issues.

Also here are some of my suggestions that came out of the summit, do comment if you agree or disagree...

- It struck me when someone mentioned how it was perhaps difficult to find sources willing to speak on the record while reporting about conflict issues, that we need to have a witness protection program in India and the media needs to be a vociferous watchdog when it comes to protecting whistle-blowers. That would encourage more people to speak out for justice.

- Media literacy needs to be popularised in South Asia so that ordinary viewers understand how the media can be manipulated and so they don't take everything as gospel truth. This will also lead to greater public demands for an accountable media.

- Advocate Ashraj Wani from Kashmir also argued for a journalists code of ethics and I agree. I was surprised that the body language of most of the senior reporters in the room implied there was no code of ethics being mandated in their newsrooms! I hope all the journalism curricula in India/ South Asia have ethics as a required course, as I know is required to study in a Master's degree syllabus in the U.S.

- I think the media also needs to elucidate audiences about their country's legal obligations under the UN's human rights framework as this is a good way to hold the State accountable for their human rights record. The public should be made aware of which international covenants have been ratified and concluding observations should be tracked.

- Sustainability is a huge obstacle for citizen journalism models, which are needed so that alternative information and marginalised voices are allowed to bubble up to the surface. This will ensure a healthy democracy, for if marginalised voices are not heard, then revolution brews. We also need alternative media to balance the mainstream hegemonic view of society.

- Women can support solutions-oriented reporting. In my experience, this garners more eyeballs.

- We need to organise a conference on online journalism/ new media in India.

- Journalists need to be trained in critical analyses so that they are making more than mundane observations. This may sound oversimplified but if you were watching the news around 26/11, you would agree that we never heard any discussion about 'why they want to attack us', only when/ where/ how. I was really interested in hearing people's thoughts on what perceptions are floating around in Pakistan that are being used to conjure up hatred for India, to provoke young boys to heinous crimes?

Sunday, September 4, 2011


“When life wants to bless you, it gives you a teacher”, this quote stands so true for a group of kids at a small school named AKSHAR in Chandigarh. In spite of lacking adequate means of attending a regular school, these kids are getting necessary basic education, thanks to the efforts of Mrs. Vandana Aggarwal.

She has been managing the school, on her own, for more than one and a half year now, but according to her, she has just started. Rome might not have been built in a day, but the school definitely was! As Vandana tells her story, on one day she came up with the idea of starting the school and the very next day, there it was – complete with books, blackboard , a teacher and of course, the students. After a year and a half, there are three teachers who take classes for Nursery and KG in English, Hindi, Mathematics, Art and Moral Science.

Taking a break from regular studies, students are encouraged to take part in extracurricular activities and events. One such event included a talent show, where the students exhibited all sorts of skill by enacting a skit, reciting poems and singing songs. Each and every student participated to make the show a grand success.

All work and no play would make the kids dull, so the school arranges frequent trips for the kids to nearby places like Chhatbir, Sukhna Lake, Rock Garden, Pinjore Garden or any latest movie, giving them a fun-filled break from their routine. Since the children belong to the very poor backgrounds, and there are hardly any medical facilities available to them, the school organizes regular health check-ups for the kids in collaboration with the Fortis Hospital, Chandigarh. The staff visits the school once a month for general health, eye check up etc. It was one such routine checkup that helped save the life of one of the students, Robin, who otherwise might not have survived.

Adding yet another feather to its cap, the school hosted a meditation camp on 3rd September, where “Brahm Kumaris” from a nearby Ashram visited the school.

They talked about the importance of good manners and values in life and played a game to demonstrate the need of being focused in life. And now the school plans to make this a monthly feature.

Vandana has lots of dreams for the school and kids like incorporating a library and a “playroom”, starting vocational classes for young girls and lots more. Her endless energy and enthusiasm is highly contagious and inspiring. She sparkles with excitement every time she talks about her ideas. And why not, she knows she’ll be making a difference, a positive one, in someone’s life….

Friday, September 2, 2011

Fewer Asian women marrying - trend must be growing in India too?

This Economist article says China and India are not visibly affected by the trend of fewer women choosing to marry and have children in Asia. But I think it depends on which class you're looking at. It seems that a growing number of career-minded urban middle class women are single. Surprisingly it says there will be 60m (million?) more men than women in China and India by 2050!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

15 of the First Female Professors in History

Jasmine Hall writes in sharing this great new blog post from her site...Inspiring read - about Greek, other European and American professors.

Can someone research this in India? Nalanda University must have had some female professors?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Wave trainee needs support for further education - please help!

My name is Vandana. I left home when I was 20 due to disagreements
with my family over marriage and further education. I have not
disclosed my location to them since then so I avoid using my last name
due to the fear of being tracked as I also fear for my physical

I have been accepted into Prague Film School, Czech Republic to study
documentary filmmaking, for the term starting in September 2011 and
finishing in May 2012.

For two years I worked at Jagori Grameen, a grassroots NGO
in HP which was started by Abha Bhaiya, a well-known women's rights activist in
India. I was also a videoblogger at WAVE (Women Aloud:
Videoblogging for Empowerment). To see some of my videoblogs, go to

I don't have
the financial means to pay for my education but I do have a vision. I
want to study documentary film-making because I want to travel across
India and around the world, meet people who live on the margins and
voice their issues by making politically and socially relevant films.
Having seen so much violence in my own life and emerging against it
has inspired me to make films which give a voice to those who suffer from violence so
that we can work towards the creation of a just and violence-free
world. If I get this opportunity to study in Prague Film School I will
inspire, encourage and motivate many women like me to dare to dream.

I have received 100% scholarship to cover my tuition fees which is 14,
800 euros. I require more funds to cover my airfare. computer, camera
and living expenses in Prague. I have already raised 5,000 euros.
I need to raise an additional 3,50,000 rupees. Can you help me in any
way with doing that? I just have 10 days before I leave and this is
very urgent.

With this email I am sending you my resume, my application materials
for Prague Film School which include my statement of purpose/college
essay, recommendation letters from Abha Bhaiya and Sapna Shahani and a
video titled Gaddi weavers in Himachal which has been produced by me.

Saturday, August 27, 2011


Public exposure to media is like flesh to the body and so is its impact on us. The images in media mould our opinion and affect the way in which we see the world around us.

Television is the spinal source of information for the youth of today. The youth reflect what they see and try to emulate that in their day to day lives. The way in which women are represented in the media, especially on television could lead to the continued oppression of women and the continued belief that they are the objects of male satisfaction (the pervasiveness of such stereotyping is evident in advertising).

In the early 1970s there was an upswing in feminist movement which affected the television market as many women oriented issues were taken up by the tele directors. But there was a fall in the trend by the next decade itself therefore the impact was somewhat limited. The images in the media have by and large proved to be detrimental to women as the portrayal of such imagery has clearly reasserted the patriarchal superstructure rather than helping women assert their own ground. Images running through the media not only affect men’s behavior but also affect women’s interpretation of conducting themselves in a particular fashion. The images that prevail in the media are social dangers to women as it circumscribes them from breaking the societal stereotypes.

Media as an agent of socialization (Holtzman,p.76,Weimann,p.20). Sreberny and van Zoonen p.226) stated also in the meaning theory that “by presenting endless portrayals of reality in its content, mass communications provide experiences from which we collectively shape our meanings” and in this way not only does the media influences the society but it also upholds the current societal values and views solidifying the societal norms of the time and hence aiding in creating the social structure.

If we compare the decades of 50’s and 60’s where the women performed their “engendered roles” of submitting to their husbands and were affectionate and consummate homemakers, only 32% of women were seen in television characterization. Later on during mid 70’s as mentioned earlier a slight transformation was seen which also was not that long lasting. For instance, the Charlie’s Angels who were the epitome of strong, tough and independent women crime fighters also worked and took orders from the mysterious male Charlie. In addition, they were dressed to accommodate the male gaze that in no way makes them epitome of impressive independent female crime fighters or women who know what they want.

Another important point to be noted is that women in television are more concerned about sex and marriage as compared to their male counterparts. The Indian television is flooded with the stereotypical storylines comprising of “kitchen politics” where women hold their ground in terms of back biting at domestic level, decorating themselves with ornaments and rearing their children in the most “moral and pro societal” ways. Society’s bias is so commonplace and is more or less a normative thing for the society to commoditize women in terms of their beauty and the kind of work that is “allowed” to them.

The images of professional women which are also taking up the television industry are problematic. The “superwoman” imagery of women who are able to prove their acumen at work and are also identified as model home makers and mothers give the illusion that professional women are capable of “multi tasking” and they can be able breadwinners and at the same time can handle domestic chores without any extended help. This is not a favorable situation for women in any way. There is a great deal of “illusion” of celebrating the spirit of womanhood. When the women were toiling their voices for equality in job, it now seems that the media imagery is depicting women having achieved their aspirations as television every now and then comes up with images of equality won and women across the country are empowered. There is a created sense of women having no reason to fight over anything or demanding equality because the “media reality” depicts the realization of such equality which leaves no reason to fight.

When we see the news on the television, there we witness the male and the female news anchors and along with the “weather girls” which are also a measure of amusement. In addition to this, while participating in interviews women are much more likely to be asked questions about their love life than men while men in all probabilities would be questioned about their careers, goals and accomplishments.

Also issues affecting women are also not issues of grave concern, the issues are mostly overlooked as they are “not to be brought beyond the realm of private”. We rarely hear about the stoning of women in Afghanistan and the genital mutilations that prevail all over Africa and the Middle East. Marital rapes, domestic abuse and wage inequality are also some of the issues which are not brought out into the open.

Also the women issues which are covered did not involve any sort of interpretation in terms of critical thinking of the issues rather they were merely taken to be at the face value and were more or less left at that.

Women depicted in the music videos and other “glamour” performances is another major source of commoditization of women where women are nothing more than merely objects of male desire and the sexual violence in such videos adds to the desirability quotient of the male gaze. The fast growing trend of artificial treatments like “plastic surgeries” and “liposuctions” to turn attractive overnight is also part of “fitting” well in the male gaze where one caters to somebody else’s expectations rather than their own.

Women have been effectively portrayed in the typecast gender roles where the advertisers can sell domestic use products to the ever smiling happy mothers who are symbolic of happy homemakers having no issues with their condition.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Slut Walk at Delhi- An Overview.

Social activists (against the walk): Look at the walk ...its all over..everywhere!...these bunch of young women only know hooting and shouting which has nothing to do with the "art" of protestation, "SlutWalk" is what they've named it, following their Western Counterparts, What did they achieve?, look at the media hype and the publicity they've got.. What a sham!..Oh! Praise the Lord!!...they have no sense of Feminism...What is wrong with them?

Well, I am not writing this note to traverse "the type" women/men who would have opinions inclining to the negation of the Slut Walk (Besharmi Morcha), Delhi and who are in sync with the above mentioned pointers! ...because I think each has the right to voice their opinion...But wait, ...if they have a fair chance, so do I !

By far, Asia's largest slut walk and being second in number (after the one that took place in Bhopal on the 17th of July,2011) saw women and men, "the gutsy and the for ones" coming out of their homes on a Sunday to march in solidarity and hoot, yes hoot, "We Support".

One of the major concerns that has been raised is about the Walk's Reach and its Legitimacy.

What section of the society did the "Walk" cater to?...The concern shared is, if at all,some light is seen.... ( Hold on, for the record, you'll need many more walks before you actually see the Sun rising!)...the results are going to remain in the periphery of the will it reach the rural dwellings where women have little or no understanding of the word "rights"?..where it is a mere word for them. What about these women?...(Breathe-Breathe-Breathe!...chill man!.. let me spell A first!..)

On a more serious note, Yes, undeniably, we as women and citizens cannot repudiate the sufferings of the rural women, but should that be a reason for women in the metropolis to not take a step forward and initiate a movement?..The step taken is not just in sync with our Western Counterparts...(Duh! so what if its not an "original" Idea, it still is a good one!'s an 'uproar' where the idea remains behind and the Waves, the very Idea stimulates, create ripples...that's the intent of the "idea" don't complain, I am not attempting a Monet spare me the copyrights!'s a "movement",a cause which I feel for and want to be associated with!)...

Well, there are multi-players who would talk of "Slut" being a repugnant word and would condemn its "women" users terming it uncivilised..while 'the word' might be used as a lingua franca in the male commonly as a bird shitting,perhaps!...

Also, I didn't see any body in their underpants at Jantar help soothe the roving eyes, which came with zeal to "see" the goings on! and the "thunderous right wingers" who did not get enough to flutter! Well, yes, there were "onlookers" who had little to do or know about the cause, but seemed fascinated with a pool of women shouting and hooting! they tagged along the groups and hovered and that's just what they did!..but to their dismay,couldn't fetch much!..Because it is a movement, keeping in mind, the place and context, (please mind the name,"Besharmi Morcha")

Many women turned up how they are "usually dressed" and "chased" to show that "Clothes" have nothing to do with "Rape" and/ or "Molestation", also being the Underlying theme of the movement.

Kudos to this one! ...The movement has just begun....As Chennai follows the trail!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Sunday, July 31, 2011

11 Momentous Female Firsts in Academia

An email received by Wave to post this important article chronicling women's achievements in academia ( We hope our readers will comment about Indian women's achievements in academia as well!

I’m a writer for and we just published an article “11 Momentous Female Firsts in Academia” I think you’d like, since your blog often covers the same subject matter. Feel free to share the article with your readers if you have a place for it in upcoming post schedule.
Jasmine Hall

In Kenya, gov't pays for schoolgirls sanitary pads to dissuade absenteeism, can't we do this in India?

Gender Responsive Planning and Budgeting at Work
By Miriam Gathigah

NAIROBI, Jul 25, 2011 (IPS) - For the first time ever, the finance minister has allocated almost four million dollars from the current national budget to provide free sanitary pads to schoolgirls.

This comes after persistent pressure from women parliamentarians who took the issue of girls’ absenteeism from school, due to lack of sanitary pads, to parliament. It was a campaign that left their male counterparts speechless, for such matters are rarely spoken about in public, let alone in parliament, in Kenya’s conservative society.

In their persistent lobbying, the women parliamentarians brought to the fore a problem that could have continued to hinder the education of young girls. Thirteen-year-old Dorothy Akinyi, a standard seven pupil from Kibera, which is arguably the largest slum in Africa, stays at home every time she menstruates.

"Without sanitary pads life at school is difficult. We are subjected to very embarrassing and humiliating incidences, especially from the boys. Tying a pullover around your waist to hide the soiled patch behind your uniform in case the tissue leaks is a dead giveaway. We choose to stay at home," explains Akinyi. But the situation is bound to change for Akinyi and other girls like her. But only if the money allocated for the sanitary wear is spent efficiently.

"This is gender responsive budgeting at work. Being sensitive to the distinctive needs of men and women, while allocating and spending public funds," explains Jacinta Nyachae, executive director of Kenya Aids Law Project and an advocate of human rights.

Her comments come just as Rwanda prepares to host a global high level meeting on increasing accountability and developing effectiveness through gender responsive budgeting in Kigali from 26 to 28 Jul. The meeting is held in conjunction with the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women and the European Union.

But girls are not the only ones to have benefitted from a gender sensitive strategy. In a move that has seen women break socio-political economic barriers, the planning and budgeting for the establishment of the ministry of gender and children affairs remains government’s strongest show of its commitment to address gender inequality.

"But gender planning and budgeting is not enough, the rampant corruption across various government ministries is a clear indication that there’s need for tracking and monitoring how these funds are used," explains a source from the G-10 alliance, which is a coalition of women organisations fighting for women’s rights.

The source adds: "The Women Enterprise Fund suffered allegations (that) needy women (could not) accessing the fund. The same can be said of education bursaries and money channelled through the Constituency Development Fund (CDF), various audits into the CDF kitty have revealed massive corruption."

Corruption is an issue that Kenya is struggling to deal with. At the moment, 31 civil society activists have been remanded in a Nairobi cell after being arrested in Jul. 18 during a long-drawn vigilance to have the minister of education resign over massive corruption allegations.

Although the issue of transparency and accountability is yet to be mainstreamed alongside the gender mainstreaming process, various attempts to lift the plight of women have been partially successful. While the Women Enterprise Fund has been accused of not reaching all the women who need the money, it has made a difference to the lives of many.

"The establishment of the Women Enterprise Fund to enable women to access macro finance has seen women in the informal sector become economically empowered," explains Dr. Wilfred Subbo, a university lecturer in Gender and Development in Nairobi.

"This is important because poverty is gendered. Men and women experience poverty in very different ways. Research has shown that there are more women living in poverty than men because more women are illiterate, thus limiting their chances of exploiting employment opportunities that can afford them (a) decent living," he adds.

He says structures were needed to audit the money as it was being spent, and not after, in order to immediately deal with any financial inconsistencies.

"How do we know for sure that the four million dollars currently allocated to the Women Enterprise Fund will reach the economically marginalised women it is intended for?" he asks.

The national budget is an opportunity for the government to show its commitment in raising and spending resources.

"Gender budgeting response doesn’t mean that the treasury develops two budgets; one for women, and the other for men. It means that the government shows an awareness of the fact that some problems are (particular) to men and others to women," Nyachae expounds.

She further adds: "Women face serious reproductive health problems that can incapacitate them. The budget should reflect these challenges as it did by allocating some funds to deal with these challenges."

She was referring to the current national budget allocation of about two million dollars for the improvement of testing for and treating cervical and breast cancer. It was also the first time the ministry of finance had made such an allocation.

"Cervical cancer continues to be a leading killer disease even though it is the most preventable and treatable form of cancer. Statistics from Kenyatta Hospital show that at least 2,000 new cancer cases are diagnosed every year with a similar number dying from the disease annually," explains Dr. Brigid Monda, a gynaecologist and lecturer in Nairobi.

Gender responsive budgeting is a reflection of gender sensitive planning and practical solutions towards ensuring that gender inequalities in all facets of society are addressed.

"Integration of all into the mainstream development process is in itself a realisation of the objective to achieve sustainable development. It is also a means to bridge the development gap between men and women. It can also create transparency and accountability because women have been found to be efficient and effective implementers of public funds and resources," Subbo says. (END)


Statement of Indian Women's Rights Activists in Solidarity with Women in Sri Lanka

It's been more than two years since the supposed end of the war in Sri Lanka. The issues of concern are many, particularly with regard to the period after the end of direct combat. The Sri Lankan government has been abysmal in acknowledging the range of human rights violations that have been committed by the armed forces, which has been documented without a kernel of doubt by the United nations report ( as well as the Channel 4 documentary ( This documentation has been made in spite of circumstances where any neutral observation of the last stages of the conflict was made impossible by the Sri Lankan government and its army.

Among the myriad communities who have been affected by the prolonged conflict in terms of destruction of property, lives and support structures through death, injury and displacement, are women from different communities. This includes women from both Tamil and Muslim communities in the northern and eastern provinces. Most of the concerns are shared, along with particularities to specific communities such as the Muslims for instance.

In the event of the Sri Lankan Government appearing before the CEDAW committee, we would like to bring to your notice the extensive report put together by the Coalition of Muslims and Tamils for Peace and Co-existence ( We stand by all aspects of the report put together by activists, yet again, in severely adverse circumstances. Through rigorous, grassroot-level work in a sustained manner, this report has been put together in a situation where the government is actively impeding any work by humanitarian agencies and civil society organisations across the country, especially in the north and east.

We address you from our vantage point as women's rights organisations and feminists based in India who are deeply concerned about the role of the Indian and Sri Lankan governments in Sri Lanka today, especially concerns affecting women who often bear the brunt of oppressions caused due to war meted out to them by state and non-state actors. We would like to completely support our colleagues in Sri Lanka who are often silenced by real dangers of harm to their person on a daily basis and activists working on Sri Lanka based elsewhere. We strongly urge both governments to act upon the following demands:

1. The right to return and speedy, sustained and holistic resettlement of women and their families in their chosen places of return. This includes simplifying processes of registration and resettlement and setting up transparent and democratic systems for the same. This should include, among other things, a realistic compensation package to rebuild lives that have been shattered repeatedly for three decades if not more. Specifically, we demand that this should apply to all plans, including the large-scale housing project that is being done by the Indian Government through contracts with private companies.

2. Dismantling of high security zones which have caused a serious loss of land to many families, such as in Sampur in Trincomalee district, Mullikulam and Silawathurai in Mannar district.

3. Canceling of industrial projects in various parts of the country, including those in high security zones. Here we would like to particularly stress on industrial projects such as the Sampur power plant that is being set up in collaboration with NTPCL and the Indian Government. We strongly urge the Indian government to desist from actively participating in industrial and developmental projects in Sri Lanka wherever they result in the permanent loss of the land and livelihoods or ethnic cleansing of war-displaced minorities.

4. The increased militarization in the country as a whole, particularly in the north and east, needs to be brought to an end immediately. This includes, but is not restricted to, ending the immense power accorded to the state under emergency regulations, the unchecked power of the Presidential Task Force, and the unchecked power and impunity given under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. It is imperative that military and ex-military personnel be immediately removed from positions of governance and be replaced by civilian administrators and a civil police force, as should be the case during peacetime.

5. The specific concerns of women such as problems of title on land in women-headed households and among widows and so on be taken cognizance of and addressed at the earliest. Further, cases of sexual assault and rape meted out by security forces and other state actors need to be taken cognizance of. The accused must be tried in the locality where the rapes and assaults took place rather than in a distant Sinhala-speaking locality, the perpetrators must be punished and the victims compensated.

6. Government to take active measures to find missing persons, and either prosecute or release prisoners who have been kept in prison without any prosecution for many years.

7. The trafficking of women and girls, not just for forced sex work but also for work in Free Trade Zones, often in faraway places without being allowed any contact with their families or other community members, is a horrifying index of the complete vulnerability and helplessness with which they survive, due to ongoing displacement, militarization and draconian legislation. We are aware of an overwhelming practice of sexual force, abuse and deception of minors and women from the northern and eastern regions to push them into violent situations of work. We demand an immediate rigorous enquiry and halt to this heinous practice, adequate compensation to the victims, and punishment of all those who have engaged in trafficking them. Situations of coercive work due to social, economic and conflict-related reasons are complex and it is incumbent upon the state to halt any practice of taking advantage of these already vulnerable communities. We demand that the state provides adequate mechanisms and resources to rebuild their work and lives in ways they choose.

We no longer believe the empty promises of the Sri Lankan Government to bring peace and reconciliation, and strongly demand immediate action that will convince us of the seriousness of this intent. We strongly condemn the Indian Government's silence and active participation in many of the human rights violations meted out by the Sri Lankan Government. We demand that the Indian government take positive steps for justice and the basic welfare of all those people adversely affected by the prolonged conflict in Sri Lanka. As women's groups and feminists in India, we will no longer silently stand witness to such violations and will continue to raise a voice against our own government as well as the Sri Lankan government and will stand in eternal solidarity with our friends and colleagues in Sri Lanka.


Dr. Uma Chakravarty, Historian, New Delhi.
Dr. Ilina Sen, Professor, Wardha, Maharashtra
Dr. Rohini Hensman, Mumbai
Madhu Mehra, Partners for Law in Development, Delhi
Ammu Abraham, Mumbai
Saheli, Delhi
Forum Against Oppression of Women, Mumbai
Lesbians and Bisexuals in Action, Mumbai
Jeny Dolly, Chennai
Karuna, Chennai
Kabi Sherman, Mumbai
Pramada Menon, Delhi
Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Advocate, Mumbai
Shipra Nigam, Delhi
Amrita Shodan, London
Saumya Uma, Women's Research and Action Group, Mumbai
Vimochana, Bangalore
Dr. Mary. E. JOhn, Director, Centre for Women's Development Studies, Delhi.
Meena Saraswati Seshu, Sangli, Maharashtra
Kaveri Indira, Bangalore.
Programme on Women's Economic Social and Cultural Rights, PWESCR, New Delhi.
Lakshmi Lingam, Professor, Women's Studies, Mumbai.
Sonal Shukla, Mumbai
Dr. Leena Ganesh, Mumbai
Laxmi Murthy, Consulting Editor, Himal Southasian
Jayashree Subramanian, Eklavya, Madhya Pradesh
Ponni Arasu, Researcher, Chennai.
Sapna Shahani, Founder - Wave India, Goa.

The Hindu Succession Act needs to be amended to be more fair to deceased women's relatives

Let us amend the law, it is only fair to women
Dr. Justice AR. Lakshmanan

Section 15 should be amended, so that in case a female Hindu dies intestate leaving her self-acquired property with no heirs, as mentioned in Clause ‘a' of Section 15, the property should devolve on her husband's heirs and also on the heirs of her paternal side.

This refers to the article “A law that thwarts justice” (The Hindu, June 27, 2011) by Ms. Prabha Sridevan, former Judge of the Madras High Court. I have analysed it and am in agreement with the views expressed by the author for my own reasons.

As Chairman of the Law Commission of India, I took up for consideration the necessity of amending Section 15 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 which deals with the general rules of Succession in the case of female Hindus dying intestate — not having made a will before one dies — in view of the vast societal changes that have taken place.

The Hindu Succession Act, 1956 is part of the Hindu Code which includes the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956 and the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956.

The Hindu Succession Act made a revolutionary change in the law for female Hindus. For the first time, a Hindu female could become an absolute owner of property. She could inherit equally with a male counterpart and a widow was also given importance regarding the succession of her husband's property as also to her father's property. The Act was amended in 2005 to provide that the daughter of a co-parcener in a joint Hindu family governed by the Mitakshara Law shall, by birth, become a co-parcener in her own right in the same manner as the son, having the same rights and liabilities in respect of the said property as that of a son.

Scheme of succession

Section 15 of the Hindu Succession Act propounds a definite and uniform scheme of succession to the property of a female Hindu who dies intestate. There are also rules set out in Section 16 of the Act which provides for the order of succession and the manner of distribution among heirs of a female Hindu.

Source of acquisition

The group of heirs of the female Hindu dying intestate is described in 5 categories as ‘a' to ‘e' of Section 15 (1) which is illustrated as under:

In a case where she dies intestate leaving property, her property will firstly devolve upon her sons and daughters so also the husband. The children of any pre-deceased son or daughter are also included in the first category of heirs of a female Hindu;

In case she does not have any heir as referred to above, i.e., sons, daughters and husband including children of any pre-deceased sons or daughters (as per clause ‘a') living at the time of her death, then the next heirs will be the heirs of the husband;

Thirdly, if there are no heirs of the husband, the property would devolve upon the mother and father;

Fourthly, if the mother and father are not alive, then the property would devolve upon the heirs of the father which means brother, sister, etc;

The last and the fifth category is the heirs of the mother upon whom the property of the female Hindu will devolve if in the absence of any heirs falling in the four preceding categories.

This is the general rule of succession, but the Section also provides for two exceptions which are stated in Sub-Section (2). Accordingly, if a female dies without leaving any issue, then the property inherited by her from her father or mother will not devolve according to the rules laid down in the five entries as stated earlier, but upon the heirs of father. And secondly, in respect of the property inherited by her from her husband or father-in-law, the same will devolve not according to the general rule, but upon the heirs of the husband.

The Hindu Succession Bill, 1954, as originally introduced in the Rajya Sabha, did not contain any clause corresponding to Sub-Section (2) of Section 15. It came to be incorporated on the recommendations of the Joint Committee of the two Houses of Parliament. The intent of the legislature is clear that the property, if it originally belonged to the parents of the deceased female, should go to the legal heirs of the father.

So also under Clause (b) of Sub Section (2) of Section 15, the property inherited by a female Hindu from her husband or her father-in-law shall also under similar circumstances, devolve upon the heirs of the husband. It is the source from which the property was inherited by the female, which is more important for the purpose of devolution of her property. The fact that a female Hindu originally had a limited right and after acquiring the full right, would not, in any way, alter the rules of succession given in Sub Section (2) of Section 15.

The 174{+t}{+h} Report of the Law Commission also examined the subject of “Property Rights of Women; Proposed Reforms under the Hindu Law” and had noted that the rules of devolution of the property of a female who dies intestate reflects patriarchal assumptions.

The basis of inheritance of a female Hindu's property who dies intestate would thus be the SOURCE from which such female Hindu came into the possession of the property and the manner of inheritance which would decide the manner of devolution.

The term ‘property' though not specified in this Section means property of the deceased heritable under the Act. It includes both movable and immovable property owned and acquired by her by inheritance or by devise or at a partition or by gift or by her skill or exertion or by purchase or prescription. This Section does not differentiate between the property inherited and self-acquired property of a Hindu female; it only prescribes that if a property is inherited from husband or father-in-law, it would go to her husband's heirs and if the property is inherited from her father or mother, in that case, the property would not go to her husband's, but to the heirs of the father and mother.

This is very aptly illustrated by the following illustration:- A married Hindu female dies intestate leaving the property which is her self-acquired property. She has no issue and was a widow at the time of her death. As per the present position of law, her property would devolve in the second category, i.e., to her husband's heirs. Thus, in a case where the mother of her husband is alive, her whole property would devolve on her mother-in-law. If the mother-in-law is also not alive, it would devolve as per the rules laid down in case of a male Hindu dying intestate, i.e., if the father of her deceased husband is alive, the next to inherit will be her father-in-law and if in the third category, the father-in-law is also not alive, then her property would devolve on the brother and sister of the deceased husband.

Thus, in the case of the self-acquired property of a Hindu married female dying intestate, her property devolves on her husband's heirs. Her paternal and material heirs do not inherit, but the distant relations of her husband would inherit as per the husband's heirs.

The case for change

The Hindu Succession Act, 1956 was enacted when, in the structure of the Hindu society, women hardly went out to work. There has been a vast change in the social scene in the past few years and women have made progress in all spheres. The consequence is that women are owning property earned by their own skill. These situations were not foreseen by the legislators.

If that is so, what is the impact of these socio-economic changes? Do they warrant any change in the law of succession in relation to the property of a female Hindu dying intestate? What is the fallout of a gradual disintegration of the joint Hindu family and the emergence of nuclear families as a unit of society over the years in the context of law of succession governing the issue at hand?

A fundamental tenet of the law of succession has been the proximity of relation in which a Successor stands to the person who originally held the property that may be the subject matter of inheritance in a given case. The fact that women have been given the right to inherit from her parental side also assumes relevance in the present context. These developments and changes lead to competing arguments and approaches that may be taken in re-defining the law of succession in case of a female Hindu dying intestate. Thus, three alternative options emerge for consideration, namely:

1. Self-acquired property of a female Hindu dying intestate should devolve first upon her heirs from the natal family.

2. Self-acquired property of a female Hindu dying intestate should devolve equally upon the heirs of her husband and the heirs from her natal family.

3. Self-acquired property of a female Hindu dying intestate should devolve first upon the heirs of her husband.

The third option may be taken first as this can be disposed of summarily. The option essentially means continuation of the status quo. We have seen earlier that socio-economic changes warrant corresponding changes in the law as well.

We may now take up the first option. The protagonists of this approach contend that the general order of succession reflects a gender bias. It will be relevant to refer to a passage in Pradhan Saxena – Succession Laws and Gender Justice in Re-defining Family Law in India by Archana Parasar, Amit Dhanda, New Delhi.

The supporters of the said approach contend that the joint family system has slowly eroded and that an increasing number of nuclear and semi-nuclear families have replaced the traditional Mitakshara Hindu joint family system. Women are also becoming more economically independent. With the growth of the nuclear family, a married woman's dependency on her natal family and continued closeness to it is much greater today even if it was not so earlier. Most married women would prefer that their parents should be the more preferred heirs to inherit her property if her children and husband are not alive. She would also prefer that her sister and brother have a better right to inherit her property than her brother-in-law and sister-in-law.

Accordingly, it is urged that Section 15(1) should be modified to ensure that the general order of succession does not place a woman's husband's heirs above those who belong to her natal family like her father and mother and thereafter, her brother and sister. It is contended that when a man dies intestate, his wife's relatives do not even figure in the order of succession despite the manner in which he may have acquired the property. In view of this, parity is sought in the case of a female by applying the same rules as applicable to male's property.

Accordingly, it is suggested that it would be better to amend Section 15(1) to specify the general rules of devolution, which will apply not only to self-acquired property by a woman, but also to other property acquired through her family, gifts, etc. The only proviso which would then be needed would be the property that a woman acquires from her husband's family.

The second option in this regard is that the property of a female Hindu dying intestate devolves upon the heirs depending upon the source from which, the said property was acquired by her, the self-acquired property of such female be simultaneously inherited by her heirs both from the husband family as well as the natal family in equal share. The fact remains that in spite of her closeness to and dependence on her natal family, her relations with her husband's family are not separated and uprooted in entirety. She continues to be a member of her husband's family, getting support from it in all walks of life. One cannot afford to ignore the ground realities in this regard. The social ethos and the mores of our patriarchal system demand that the existing system should not be totally reversed as claimed by the protagonists of the first option. Lest, there may be social and family tensions which may not be in the overall interest of the family as a whole and as such, ought to be avoided. In any case, it is open to the female Hindu to bequeath her property the way she likes by executing a Will.


In the present scenario, when amendments are made to the effect that women have been entitled to inherit property from her parental side as well as from husband's side, it will be quite justified if equal right is given to her parental heirs along with her husband's heirs to inherit her property.

It is, therefore, proposed that in order to bring about a balance, Section 15 should be amended, so that in case a female Hindu dies intestate leaving her self-acquired property with no heirs, as mentioned in Clause ‘a' of Section 15, the property should devolve on her husband's heirs and also on the heirs of her paternal side.

If this amendment is brought about, the effect will be as under:

A married Hindu female dies intestate leaving self-acquired property at the time of her death, the only surviving relatives being her mother-in-law (L) and her mother (M).


As per the present law, her property would devolve entirely on ‘L' and ‘M' will not get anything from her property.

Post Amendment

By the proposed amendment, her mother-in-law and mother should equally inherit her self-acquired property.

A married Hindu female dies intestate leaving self-acquired property and she has no heirs as per Clause ‘a' of the Schedule, the only surviving relatives are her husband's brother and sister (BL & SL) and her own brother and sister (B&S).


As per the present law, her property would normally devolve upon ‘BL' and ‘SL'. ‘B' and ‘S' do not inherit anything from her in this property.

Post Amendment

By the proposed amendment, her own brother and sister should equally inherit along with her brother-in-law and sister-in-law.

The above amendment, suggested by me as Chairman of 18{+t}{+h} Law Commission as early as in June 2008 in the public interest, is still pending with the Union Law Ministry.

(The writer is a former Judge of the Supreme Court of India and former Chairman, Law Commission of India. His email id is jusarlakshmanan@


Friday, July 15, 2011

Great development - Lady of the house now head of the family in India

On Monday, the Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM), headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, cleared a version of the food security Bill that accepts several provisions recommended by the Sonia Gandhi headed-National Advisory Council (NAC) and rejects some others. Predictably, public attention has concentrated on the latter.

Unnoticed among the NAC recommendations that have been accepted by the government, therefore, lies a radical new proposal that has the potential to re-arrange the power play in the family and in society: the ration card will be issued in the name of the adult woman in the household.

Under the chapter titled “Women’s Empowerment” in the Bill passed by the EGoM, that is slimmer and more cryptic than the NAC document, the eldest woman in the family, not less than 18 years of age, shall be deemed to be the head of the household for the purpose of distribution of ration cards in every household, ‘priority’ as well as ‘general’, under the Bill. Additionally, according to the Bill, in case of a household that does not have an adult woman, but has female members below the age of 18, such members will become the head of the household on turning 18. Only in case of a household with no female member, will an adult male be treated as head of the family.

According to NAC sources, there was complete unanimity among members and strong support from Sonia Gandhi for the proposal to bring the woman centrestage because, after all, the woman is “the natural custodian of food and nutritional security in the family”.

While there are other “pro-women” features in the Bill — such as preference in licensing and management of fair price ration shops to women and women’s collectives and nutritional support to pregnant and lactating mothers as a legal entitlement — the proposed legal recognition to the woman as head of the household is likely to be the most spectacular and unprecedented step of all. Even in the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2005, seen to be the sterling achievement of the NAC in its first avtar, in as much as the law provided a statutory guarantee of wage employment to vulnerable groups within a rights-based framework, the woman was seen essentially as a member of the male-dominated family.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Send the UN your input about harmful cultural practices such as genital mutilation, early and forced marriage by Aug 31

Via Gender, Livelihoods and Resources Forum (GLRF), is a regional forum based in Jharkhand (India). Advocates for Tribal Women's Land based Resource Rights (including training and services) from all stakeholders - Community, Private and State, for creating a gender-just environment.


Joint CEDAW-CRC General Recommendation / Comment on Harmful Practices

Re: Call for papers on harmful practices


The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child both contain legally binding obligations in relation to the elimination of harmful practices affecting girls under eighteen that are based on gender stereotypes and prejudices grounded in patriarchy. By virtue of this shared mandate, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) have decided to elaborate a joint General Recommendation/Comment on harmful practices. General comments of the CRC and general recommendations of CEDAW are elaborated by these Committees with a view to clarifying the normative contents of specific rights provided for under the treaties that they respectively monitor or particular themes of relevance to the treaties, as well as offer guidance about practical measures of implementation.

The present General Recommendation/Comment will also aim at clarifying the obligations of States Parties to CRC with respect to harmful practices that affect the enjoyment of the rights of boys in a discriminatory manner, and of States Parties to CEDAW with respect to the elimination of harmful practices (as defined in the General Recommendation/Comment) that affect the rights of adult women, either directly or as effects of practices to which they were subjected when they were children.

The harmful practices covered by this General Recommendation/Comment include traditional or emerging practices, prescribed by social norms, which are often embedded in culture. As female genital mutilation, early marriage and forced marriage are practices that often come before the Committees, are well studied and have been gradually reduced with certain legislative and programmatic approaches, this General Recommendation/General Comment will use them as key illustrative examples. However, the General Recommendation/Comment will provide a conceptual framework and recommendations for State Party action that are applicable to all harmful practices that fall within its scope.

The CEDAW and CRC Committees welcome inputs on harmful practices affecting girls under eighteen years of age, in English, French or Spanish, particularly from interested organizations and individuals who have extensive experience or information on harmful practices affecting girls under eighteen. The submissions should be as concise as possible and sent to the following email address in Word format by no later than 31 August 2011: While the Committees generally seek inputs of no more than 12 pages, lengthy submissions will also be accepted but should include a table of contents and an executive summary. All submissions should be accompanied by a brief presentation (1 paragraph is sufficient) on the experience of the submitting individual or organization in the subject matter. The submissions received will subsequently be posted on a webpage dedicated to the joint General Recommendation/Comment. Please note that the United Nations does not offer remuneration of any kind for inputs into General Comments or Recommendations.

Allow us to express our appreciation in advance for your active support of the work of our Committees..


Silvia Pimentel
Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women
Jean Zermatten
Committee on the Rights of the Child

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Google has an award for Indian women students in engineering!

Keep watching that website if you know someone who'd like to win the cash prize of one lakh...

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Nice to see an article about the role of the press in addressing increased violence against women!

Opinion » Readers' Editor
July 4, 2011
Arresting crime against women: key role for press
S. Viswanathan

When the Mumbai police finally cracked the daylight murder of
investigative journalist Jyotirmoy Dey and arrested seven persons
contracted by the long-absconding underworld gangster, Chotta Rajan,
thousands of readers were still restless over the delay in discovering
the motive behind the ghastly crime. Many readers of this newspaper,
who expressed solidarity through their mails, attributed the
breakthrough to the relentless pressure from journalists and the
spontaneous support of the public, who were outraged at the brutality
involved. While one reader wrote that the police must go beyond
arresting the alleged assailants and wipe out „the entire crime
syndicate responsible for the murder,‰ another reader expressed the
view that „the dismantling of the underworld is equally important.‰
Yet another feared that „the main killers may never be apprehended‰
and advised the journalists and whistle-blowers to exercise the utmost
vigil, especially when they deal with „the underworld and political

One could only hope that investigation and prosecution reach a speedy
and successful conclusion. Even as this process proceeds, the State
government would do well to honour its own word and put in place
effective protection for journalists against their adversaries.

Rising trend in crime against women

Meanwhile, several incidents of violence targeting mostly the deprived
sections of the people in different parts of the country are
disturbing and disheartening. Growing violence against women is a
cause for great concern.

Five recent incidents of violence have been reported in Uttar Pradesh
within a couple of days in mid-June. In Kanauj district, a minor Dalit
girl was assaulted by two young men in an attempt to molest her; when
she resisted, the girl was stabbed repeatedly in her eyes. Doctors
said later that the cornea of her left eye had been totally damaged
and the chances of restoring her vision were ruled out. In another
incident in Basti district, a Dalit girl was reportedly raped. A day
later, a 35-year-old woman with two children was raped, allegedly by a
gang of three in Etah district. The same day, in Gonda district, the
body of a Dalit girl was found in a field. Three persons were said to
be involved in the crime and the police did not rule out rape. In
another incident in Firozabad district, a girl aged 15 was reportedly

In Guntur district in Andhra Pradesh, a minor girl was reported to
have been sexually assaulted and burnt on June 29 by a pastor. The
girl died of severe burns at a hospital. The pastor was taken into

In Tamil Nadu, P. Krishnaveni, president of the Thalayuthu village
panchayat in Tirunelveli district, was brutally attacked by a gang a
few weeks ago. Admitted in hospital with nine stab injuries, the Dalit
panchayat chief is recovering. A fact-finding body that visited the
victim and the village under her control said that the panchayat
president faced discrimination from the day she took charge nearly
five years ago. She was not even allowed to sit in the chair allotted
to her in her office. Repeated complaints to authorities from the
panchayat chief, the fact-finding body said, were of no avail.

Poor conviction rate

These crimes against women happened in three States and were reported
by the news media in a short span of about two weeks. It is not as
though most other States are free from such violence against women.
About two lakh cases of violence have been registered by the National
Crime Records Bureau, according to its recent data.

It is well known that discriminatory and oppressive social attitudes,
not to mention plain greed and corruption, infect the attitude of the
authorities, and especially the police, in many cases when serious
complaints go uninvestigated or are poorly investigated. Only when
investigation is free, fair, and speedy and only when the conviction
rate improves in cases where women are the targets of various forms of
violence can crimes against women be brought down. The press has a key
role to play in working against any cover-up in this area.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Useful - please circulate - Anyone can email UN Women about human rights violations against women anywhere!

Confidential communications procedure of the Commission on the Status of Women:
This year's deadline for submissions under the communications procedure of the Commission on the Status of Women is 1 August 2011 and the e-mail address for submissions is now the following:

More info at:

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Indian women world's most stressed - survey

Via Network of Women in Media, India yahoo group:

Tue, Jun 28 12:24 PM IST
By Elaine Lies

TOKYO (Reuters Life!) - Women around the world feel stressed and pressed for
time, but women in emerging markets are more stressed than their sisters in
developed nations -- and Indian women say they are the most stressed of all,
according to a survey published on Tuesday.

But while women in emerging markets may be under more pressure, they are
also far more hopeful, with most seeing more financial stability and better
chances for education for their daughters, according to the survey of 21
developed and emerging nations by global information and analytics firm

An overwhelming 87 percent of Indian women said they felt stressed most of
the time, and 82 percent had no time to relax.

Despite being stressed, though, Indian women were also the most likely to
spend any extra cash they might happen to have on themselves over the next
five years.

Nearly all, 96 percent, anticpated buying clothes, while 77 percent said
they would splash out on health and beauty products and 44 percent on home

"Women across the globe are achieving higher levels of education, joining
the workforce in greater numbers and contributing more to the household
income," said Susan Whiting, vice chair at Nielsen, in a statement.

"Women tell Nielsen they feel empowered to reach their goals and get what
they want, but at the same time, this level of empowerment results in added

Mexican women came in second in terms of stress and lack of time, with 74
percent, followed by Russia with 69 percent, which the survey blamed partly
on the intense pace of social change, with what took half a century to
evolve in developed countries compressed into five for their emerging

The highest stress levels in developed countries were Spain with 66 percent
and France with 65 percent. Some 53 percent of U.S. women said they were


Women in general felt they had more opportunities than their mothers no
matter where they were living.

But women in emerging markets believed their daughters will have more
chances than they did, while those in developed nations said their girls
will only have the same opportunites, not more.

In emerging markets, 80 percent of women surveyed believe their daughters
will have greater financial stability and 83 percent believe they will have
more educational opportunity.

Only 40 percent of women in developed nations saw their daughters having
more financial stability, and only 54 percent forecast more educational

"The difference in perceptions is ... reflective of the belief that women in
developed countries have achieved a certain level of attainment and
success," said Whiting.

"While women in emerging markets see tremendous growth in the opportunities
for their daughters, a plateau of hope is evident in developed countries."

The most optimistic women were in Turkey, an overwhelming 92 percent of whom
thought their daughters would have more opportunities than they did,
followed by 89 percent of Nigerians and Malaysians.

Only half of U.S. women thought the same.

No matter where they were, though, women were more keyed into social
networking than men, talking 28 percent more and texting 14 percent more
every month. They also visited more Internet community sites.

More than half of women in both developed and emerging nations said that
computers, mobile phones and smart phones had changed their lives for the

"To connect with women, strategies should be social and relevant," said
Whiting, noting that social networking meant women followed brands more than

"Women are much more likely to engage with media that seamlessly integrates
into and improves their day-to-day lives."

The survey was conducted from February to April and covered nearly 6,500
women in Turkey, Russia, South Africa, Nigeria, China, Thailand, India,
Malaysia, Mexico, Brazil, the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom,
Italy, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Japan, Australia and South Korea.

(Reporting by Elaine Lies; Editing by Sugita Katyal)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

WAVE featured on India Governance website as a best practice!

Please comment -

Thanks to Attrika Hazarika at One World South Asia for interviewing and documenting us!

One young journalist's account of being bribed with 'gifts' from the corporate world

How many of us feel that our biological clock is ticking?

Ever thought about artificial insemination/ freezing eggs, etc?

Check out this blog:

Then share your thoughts...

The need for bloggers who are citizen journalists

Via Zest Media yahoo group:,,6549817,00.html

Press Freedom | 20.06.2011
World needs journalists now more than ever, says expert

Person standing in front of magazine stand
News comes in many forms
Journalists have been denied access to some events in the Arab world,
meaning bloggers are key to reporting on human rights abuses. Press
freedom expert Joel Simon explains how this could represent a change
in roles.

Joel Simon is executive director of the Committee to Protect
Journalists (CPJ), an international non-profit organization run by
journalists for journalists. Founded in 1981 and headquartered in New
York, the CPJ campaigns for freedom of the press and the right of
journalists to report news without fear. Deutsche Welle spoke with him
about the changing face of journalism in the internet age.

Deutsche Welle: What is your definition of a journalist?

Joel Simon: In the most basic form, journalists gather and disseminate
information that is of interest and relevance to the public. There are
professional journalists who do this and there are people who do it as
citizens. Because of new technologies there are more citizen
journalists today then perhaps at any time in history. But the
profession is none in which you need a license to practice.

Are bloggers journalists? Joel Simon Joel Simon is the executive director of CPJ

Bloggers can be journalists. When there is an issue of whether a
particular individual is a journalist or not, we read up on it. We
read the blog, we make sure that we read it in the language that it
has been written in, we look at the context in which it was written,
we look at the function that it is performing. There are blogs about
all sorts of things that certainly don't qualify as journalism. But
there are many blogs which are clearly journalistic.

In 2009, you said that "bloggers are at the vanguard of the online
revolution." Are they at the vanguard of modern journalism, too?

At that time, there was so much emphasis on bloggers because that was
the new medium through which the public was engaging in this new form
of journalism. But there are new tools available now, like Twitter,
Facebook, YouTube, and other kinds of social media. I think what has
clearly happened is that the ability of citizens to engage in
journalism and to disseminate what they see and what they think to a
portion of the public is now institutionalized. This in no way
diminishes the critically important role of professional journalists
who do it for a living, who are trained, who work with institutional
support and resources. We absolutely need them.

facebook logo with silhouette of poeple on laptopsFacebook and Twitter
were vital for Arab world bloggers I had a look at your "Prison Census
2010." You investigated 145 cases and 69 of these imprisoned
journalists were working with the internet - most of them being
bloggers. In what respect does the online revolution change your work
as an organization defending journalists worldwide?

In many repressive societies there is no outlet through which people
can express critical views, express criticism of the government. So
they have chosen to do that through blogs and other forms of social
media because there is no outlet in the institutional press. The
governments in these countries have recognized that this represents a
threat to them and they crack down. We have seen this in places like
China and Iran. We have seen that throughout the Middle East over the
last several months.

Syrian protestorsSyrian protests have largely been reported on by
online journalists Let's take the footage that we get from Syria these
days, or the pictures that reached us from Iran during the Green
Revolution of 2009, especially the ones of murdered student Neda.
Without bloggers and YouTubers, the international mainstream media
would not have been able to report.

That is true. But if you look at Syria now, that also shows the
deficiencies or the limitations of not having professional,
institutional journalists on the scene with resources. Yes, we know
something about what is happening in Syria but it is fragmented. It is
very difficult to understand and verify the context. And the Syrian
government has made a systematic, effective effort to shut out the
international media and to shut down the indigenous Syrian media. So
citizen journalists and human rights activists and others have stepped
into the fold at a great risk to themselves. But our understanding of
events is fragmented and partial and that is not an acceptable

Pile of newspapers Traditional media is experiencing dramatic changes
Professional journalists are trained to gather facts and to check them
and not to take sides. But if it comes to massive human rights abuses,
don't we have to take sides at some point like citizen journalists do
right from the start? Don't we run the risk that our so-called
balanced professional reporting is actually aiding the perpetrators
much more than the victims?

Some journalists even among the professionals have very strong
opinions and they believe very fervently that it is their role to
document and denounce human rights abusers. You know, you have to be
committed to the facts, you have to be open to new information, and
you have to verify and check the information that you disseminate.
Those are the basic ethical obligations of all journalists. But
journalists absolutely have an obligation to document human rights
abuses because they are newsworthy.

Is the internet revolution more of a chance or a threat to press
freedom and to the exposure of human rights abuses?

It is both. It is a revolutionary communications technology. But I
have been talking to people who have been looking at this issue
historically and people ask the same kind of questions about the
telephone and the telegraph and the radio and the television. Any new
media that has come along that has allowed people to inform the public
more rapidly and more effectively has transformed journalism. In the
end it will sort itself out because there is a basic human impulse
both to gather information and to disseminate that information. And
there is a basic human impulse to want to be informed about what is
happening around us. The medium through which that is done may change
but the basic exercise of journalism will not.

CPJ logoCPJ is based in New York

So even in times of blogs and Twitter and Facebook this world needs us
professional journalists?

It needs us more than ever. The number of journalists and the kinds of
journalists, that is all changing and it is expanding. There is still
a crisis in institutional journalism because the economic model is
under stress. But the basic desire of people around the world to
receive information and understand the events that are taking place
around them is stronger than ever. The interconnectedness we all have
as a result of these new technologies reinforces that. So journalists
have a vital role to play. I am absolutely convinced they will
continue to play it, and I am also convinced that there are darker
forces like repressive governments, criminal groups and militant
organizations that will continue to try to impede the work of

Joel Simon is one of the world's leading media experts and writes for
the New York Times and the Washington Post.

Interview: Sandra Petersmann

Editor: Louisa Schaefer

Why doesn't the Indian government broadcast classes from our best schools??

Via Zest Media yahoo group:

Bangladesh TV starts televising school classes
June 16th, 2011 - 13:09 UTC
by Andy Sennitt.

Bangladesh‚s national broadcaster, BTV, has begun televising classes
from some of the country‚s top schools. The live, nationwide
broadcasts are aimed at improving the quality of education in

On the first day of the programme, an English lesson was aired from
Viqarunnisa Noon School, an all-girls school in Dhaka. Lessons in
other subjects from two other schools will be aired over the next few
days, and the Education Minister, Nurul Islam Nahid, suggested that
the programme will be extended to other schools.

He said television sets were being distributed to some schools in
remote areas to enable students to watch the lessons.

(Source: Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

New study from Skoch Foundation finds poor trailing behind in banking access

Rural poor getting left out ‘Financial inclusion far from inclusive’

Dear Fellow Traveller,

The total number of no-frill accounts as of 31st March 2011 stands at 74.3 million, but the number of active accounts reported by various banks varies between a miniscule 3% and 20% as per the preliminary findings of the “State of the Sector Report” for wholesome financial inclusion. Some of the preliminary findings of the study are as follows:
Out of a total of 5,165 new branches opened in 2011, only 21.86% are rural branches. Rural outreach seems to be entirely dependent on Business Correspondents. And that too seems a bit defocused due to viability concerns.
A growth rate of more than 700% in Urban Customer Service Points (CSPs) over the last year point towards the latest trend of urbanization among Business Correspondents (BCs). Although there is not much difference between growth rates, the number of urban households covered by no-frill accounts is almost double than rural households.
The availability of credit is key enabling factor for poverty alleviation. All indicators provide cause for concern: Declining growth rate of Self Help Groups, negative growth in total loans issued by co-operatives and deceleration in growth in agriculture credit to 10.6 per cent during 2010-11 from 22.9 per cent in the previous year.
Only 0.18% of the total No Frill Accounts have an overdraft which totals a mere Rs 198 crore, out of which 81% belongs to the Bank of India. No-Frill Accounts will remain unused unless there is an Overdraft incentive at the outset. This meager amount of overdraft has to be seen in context of Rs 100 crore advertising plan of Indian Banks’ Association to promote financial inclusion. This amount is sufficient to give a Rs 500 overdraft to 2 million poor households.
The two years since the first study “Speeding Financial Inclusion” was released by Skoch Development Foundation in 2009 has seen a lot of progress on the ground with Ministry of Finance and Reserve Bank of India taking a proactive role in facilitating financial inclusion and incorporating many of its recommendations.
But given the size of the un-banked population in the country, the ongoing drive can at best be considered a "significant beginning". Only a little more than a third of India's population have access to banking services at present. In other words, only 3,500 villages have brick and mortar branches and even if another 73,000 habitations are brought under the net through the Financial Inclusion project, there would still be about 5 lakh habitations left uncovered.
Sameer Kochhar
Skoch Group

Inviting applications for State, City and Student Coordinators in INDIA Redefined

"Don't leave governance to the people who are not our representatives, don't leave Policy to the people who do not feel they are accountable to us, and don't leave all the other problems like literacy, slums, environment etc to NGOs and social workers who struggle without Citizen's support"

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All over world the Govt. sector, corporate sector, NGO sector are working but INDIA Redefined is bringing the fourth sector i.e. Common people working for country on one platform . That too in masses!. Common people till now have only come together if they are against something ; e.g All Independence movements, Movements against corruption, they have never come on one platform to work for country and then empowering themselves.

In pursuance of the above stated objective, INDIA Redefined is inviting applications from committed individuals for the posts of State Coordinators in States all over the country, City Coordinators in all Cities, Student State Coordinators and Student Coordinators from individual Universities/Colleges/Areas.

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Wikipedia event in Bombay - talk about Creative Commons - Sat 18 June

Greetings from wikipedians in Mumbai!

We're hosting a talk on Creative Commons licencing Saturday 18 June at 5 pm at National College's Conference Hall and would love it if you could be there.

The talk, by Dr Shishir Jha, project lead, Creative Commons India, will touch on various conceptual and practical aspects of these licences that are of relevance to filmmakers, photographers, writers, musicians, artists, media practitioners, non-profits, activists, lawyers, archives, galleries, libraries, museums and interested others.

Some of the questions the presentation will explore:
*What are the ideological and philosophical underpinnings of Creative Commons licenses?
*Why licence via Creative Commons?
*What does the shift from copyright ('all rights reserved') to creative commons licencing ('some rights reserved') mean conceptually and in practice?
*What kinds of Creative Commons licences are currently available? What are the implications of each?
*What are the benefits and risks of distributing one's work under a Creative Commons licence?

The presentation will be followed by an interactive q and a session, including case studies of using CC licences in India.

Hope to see you there!

Date: Saturday 18 June
Time: 5 pm
Place: National College, Conference Hall, Linking Road, Bandra

on behalf of wikipedians in Mumbai

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

When protectors against crime become perpetrators of it

The alleged rape and murder of Sonam Ali, a 14 year minor girl, in Lakhimpur district of Uttar Pradesh is another shocking revelation of human rights violations. The girl’s body was found hanging from a tree near an under-construction block in Nighasan police station of the same district. The body was recovered last Friday.

Reports suggest that the girl stayed close to the station and had entered the premises to regain her strayed buffalo from that area. It was suspected that she was approached by the policemen. And when she did not return home, her mother went to seek police help. It was latter in the evening that Sonam's body was found in the same premise hanging from a tree.

Initially, the police tried to project it as a suicide while the mother accused the police men posted at this station of murder and rape. While 11 policemen were suspended the next day, police seemed to be contrived about its action. Those who were suspended include: two sub-inspectors, one head constable and eight constables.

The initial post-mortem of the girl prompted the police to make this a suicide case. It was only after a lot of condemnation from the centre, members of opposition and civil society that UP chief minister, Mayawati ordered another post-mortem by a panel of doctors from other districts. Meanwhile, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) also sent a probe team after it took suo motu cognisance of media reports alleging that a teenage girl was raped and killed at police station.

The second post-mortem has revealed that the girl was murdered, but has ruled out rape. The three doctors who conducted the previous post-mortem have been suspended and a top police officer has been removed. Neither of the two post-mortems has discovered rape while officers are still trying to probe the rape angel.

Another important update that has come in the media is Sonam’s five year old brother Arman’s acknowledgment to the police that he saw her sister dragged inside the police station on Friday. He identified this man named Chander who with others beat his sister and strangled his sister.

Following this important lead, the police may arrest the three suspects named by Sonam’s father in the FIR. Watchman Intezam Ali, 41, had named station house officer Ravi Srivastava, sub-inspector Vinod Kumar Singh and head constable Surendra Pratap Singh.

While this case had already become a political battle ground among the UP govt., the Congress, the BJP and the SP; a major blow for the government when Sonam’s mother alleged that the family was offered Rs 5Lacs to keep mum and give vague statements. This led to the second post-mortem, and the action against the first panel of doctors, and the police official.

Criminal Investigation Department of the crime branch is handling the investigation, but Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh today demanded a CBI probe. The BJP and the Samajwadis are supporting the demand. Although it may take some time for the findings to come out and government to take appropriate action, case like this has revealed a very dark side of the police system.