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FEATURE ARTICLE: Where are the women? The anguish of displacement in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) and Sri Lanka March 10, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : Bangladesh, D'Costa, Bina, Features, Sri Lanka , comments closed

Bina D’Costa

Some 43 million people have been driven from their homes by local or cross-border warfare. The international community needs a much broader and better protection for them. The year 2009, which saw a world total of an additional 15.2 million refugees, was the worst ever in terms of the numbers who returned home voluntarily, mainly because conflicts were becoming more intractable and peace more difficult to achieve. In addition, there are some 27 million people who have been forced to flee their homes but are still living inside their own countries as IDPs (internally displaced persons). This figure does not include people uprooted by disasters like earthquakes and floods, who numbered 36 million in 2008, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Women and their children account for 80 per cent of the global displaced population.

Indeed, through my research in various camps and with hidden communities around the world, but especially in South Asia, it is clear that displaced women and their children are at serious risk. These women and children are ghettoized in horrid camps, slums and other constricted spaces either as IDPs or on the move as refugees or stateless people in other states. Unfortunately, gender-based violations of rights of displaced communities, especially in societies emerging from protracted conflicts and militarized environments, have received scant attention from the media. (more…)

FEATURE ARTICLE: Policing the national capital: Commonwealth Games, community engagement and the threat of terrorism in Delhi August 5, 2010

Posted by southasiamasala in : Dash, Kamala Kanta, Features, India , comments closed

Kamala Kanta Dash

The Delhi Police are prepared more than ever before to face any terrorist attack. However, to succeed in their initiative to police terrorism they need a sustained community engagement policy. Counter-terrorism at present is facing a twofold challenge; one is the structural challenge that includes appointments, salary, procurement of weapons and high technology based surveillance systems and the second is the ideological challenge that has trapped the police in a repressive colonial model of policing which, in turn, has not allowed the police to develop belongingness with the people. The new amendment in the Delhi Police Act 2010 must target both these institutional and ideological aspects of reform.

“The Delhi Police is making whole-hearted efforts to improve the quality of policing in the city so as to be a model police force for the entire country.” Y. S. Dadwal, Police Commissioner of Delhi

It is both a privilege and a challenge to police a diverse and multicultural community of 18 million people belonging to many faiths, languages and ethnic identities. Policing the national capital has become the toughest job in the recent years given the increasing number of terrorist attacks. Delhi has faced three major terrorist attacks in the last decade and as per the intelligence sources it remains a site of impending attacks. Each attack has challenged the reputation and efficiency of the police, though every time the police have emerged more equipped to handle such a crisis. However, the upcoming Commonwealth Games (CWG) to be held from 3rd to 14th October 2010 will be a real test of the preparation that the Delhi Police have done since last serial blasts on 13 September 2008 and more specifically the cautionary preparation in the post-26/11 Mumbai attacks.


FEATURE ARTICLE: Indian Women: Bargaining with Patriarchy March 22, 2010

Posted by southasiamasala in : Features, India, Lahiri-Dutt, Kuntala , comments closed

Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt

On 8th March, International Women’s Day, the parliament of the Government of India introduced a historic piece of legislation that seeks to set aside one third of seats in the Lok Sabha (lower House of the Parliament) and state legislative assemblies for women. The landmark bill, popularly known as the Women’s Reservation Bill (WRB), was passed by the Upper House (Rajya Sabha) of the parliament, amidst and in spite of chaos that was described by the media as a near-riot. If passed by the Lok Sabha, the WRB would lead to the 108th amendment of the Indian Constitution and reserve as many as 181 of the 545 seats in the powerful Lok Sabha, comprising of elected members. The Bill is historic because it will open the doors of political equity to half the population of India. However, the Bill has been highly controversial and despite the Law Minister, Veerappa Moily’s statement whilst introducing the Bill – ‘I expect men and women to support me’ – a number of opposition MPs tried to stop the Bill from being tabled. Some members from the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Samajwadi Party (SP) even climbed into the chairman’s well and tore up the document to hurl the pieces of paper at the Chair. There has also been strong opposition from Indian feminists and political commentators on the content and philosophy of the Bill. (more…)

Coping with Hillary Clinton’s allegations October 19, 2009

Posted by southasiamasala in : Perera, Jehan, Sri Lanka , comments closed

Jehan Perera

Hillary Clinton’s inclusion of Sri Lanka in the short list of countries that are alleged to have used rape as a tactic of war has caused fury and distress in the country. Understandably, the Sri Lankan government has called upon Ms Clinton to withdraw her remarks, which were extreme and provocative. As a result of these charges and counter charges, the possibility of constructive engagement between the government and the international community that will be in the best interests of the Sri Lankan people may get further diminished.

The fact that Ms Clinton made this allegation as US Secretary of State while presiding over a session of the UN Security Council, and passing a resolution against sexual violence on women during armed conflicts at the world’s most powerful decision making body, highlights the seriousness of the challenge that Sri Lanka faces. This month the US Congress is expected to receive a preliminary report from US government investigators regarding human rights violations and war crimes that may have taken place in the last several years. This month the European Union is also expected to announce its decision regarding the extension of the GSP+ tariff concession, where the main criterion for extension will be Sri Lanka’s adherence to the norms and practices of international law.

Never before has Sri Lanka been confronted with such international pressure. In the long years of Sri Lanka’s three decade long war there were many accusations levelled against the Sri Lankan government, but not this one. There is no denying that rape has occurred in the course of the war. The judicial verdict in the Krishanthi Kumaraswamy rape case 1998 and Sri Lankan media reports of rapes elsewhere bears this out. But these have been acts of individuals and not state policy that is systematically intended to strike fear into the hearts of the civilian population to make it easier to win the war.


Struggling for women’s rights in Afghanistan September 10, 2009

Posted by southasiamasala in : Afghanistan, Guest authors , comments closed

Susan Harris-Rimmer

Amongst the debates raised by the upcoming elections in Afghanistan and Australia’s role in the conflict there, let us remind our leaders to focus on the crucial political and security goal of protecting and improving the rights of Afghan women. In April 2009, Afghanistan’s government adopted a ‘personal status’ law that required a Shiite woman to obtain a male relative’s permission to leave her house, to seek employment or education, and to have sex with her husband every four days unless she was ill. The law also granted custody of children to fathers or grandfathers only. Its purpose was apparently to shore up Shia support for Hamid Karzai’s re-election campaign for the presidency.

The law prompted large demonstrations in Kabul, and significant international opposition, especially from the Canadian Government, on the basis that it violated women’s human rights. Women who demonstrated against the personal status law in Kabul were met with a violent response, including stoning. Under pressure, President Karzai then agreed to review the legislation. However, The Guardian reported this week (17 August) that the law had quietly been gazetted on 27 July, and has therefore entered into force, just prior to the Presidential election.