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Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

Choking and Laughing in Delhi’s Pollution


When there is little you can do to change the ridiculous situation, the best tool you can resort to is satire. Satire and jokes through social media posts, memes, and even poetry are the ways Delhiites these days are coping with the frustrations and helplessness in the choked air.
Its hard to preserve the health of your lungs in the months from October to December when the Air Quality Index reaches ‘Hazardous’ levels of 500+, but good humor can at least preserve your sanity. Dark humor perhaps.

Below are some of the most eye catching memes I cam across on social media:





Being a cricekting nation, how could there not be a meme with Cricket:


Ofcourse there has to be memes relating to Bollywood films & its stars too!



The two memes below are my absolute favourites:

POETRY ON POLLUTION:

I came across a few pieces of poetry too on pollution.
Here is one by:

Firecracker

The leaves on the Ashoka tree outside my window droop.
There is no breeze to caress them.
There is no fresh dew.
They droop with dust, soot and smog.
And as they droop, so does my heart.
An eagle flies through a dusty haze and trees in the distance are foggy.
A tired insect flies by, its wings so heavy, as if the drag of the soot- laden air makes it fly through treacle.
A truck blares a horn far away.
The parakeets are absent. The pigeons have fled. The squirrels are not running about.
My eyes dart here and there, searching for my familiar morning sights.
It is quiet. Oh so quiet.
And no one is awake.
And the leaves on the Ashoka tree droop as they bear witness. Her leaves cry silent tears as the birds flee. The guava tree is laden but I don’t need to chase the parrots away.
As I hear another firecracker in the distance,
I push back my chair, and I sigh.

~ A poem by Jhilmil Breckenridge

Credits: I read this poem in a brilliant firsthand account by Mayank Soofi on Delhi’s pollution “Oh Ghalib, give us a verse on Delhi Smog”. Link to the whole article: https://www.livemint.com/Leisure/M6rO1l78bW8jkDMSxDPJtM/Oh-Ghalib-give-us-a-verse-for-the-smog.html

At the political front, the supporters of AAP’s Delhi Chief Minister Kejriwal at state level and BJP’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the centre indulge in mudslinging, blaming each other for the root cause. Meanwhile, the kids take the most toll, not just in terms of health risk, but also by missing schools after the announced closure. ūüė¶
Some samples of this political tit-for-tat can be seen in the slide-show below:

Then there are honorable Ministers like these who are walking talking memes themsleves.

Politics of religion is not ingnored either in this catastrope that spares no one, from any faith or class. Last year when the Delhi Govt announced a total ban on crackers on Diwali, a classmate of mine from Grade 8th taunted on the Montfort Class WhatsApp group:
“Yeah on Bakr Eid, killing animals is good for soil, but bursting crakcers on Diwali is bad for air pollution.”
Sigh ! I could only pity his self-destructive bigotry.

On a serious note, there can be no lighter side to an issue as dark and deadly as this. According to Air Pollution Index Hazardious ( Severe Grade 6) its health implications as described by WHO are:
Healthy people will experience reduced endurance in activities and may also show noticeably strong symptoms. Other illnesses may be triggered in healthy people. Elders and the sick should remain indoors and avoid exercise. Healthy individuals should avoid outdoor activities.”
This is a textbook example of a slow-killer.

Being born, raised and educated in Delhi, it hurts to realize the catastropic health consequences that over 20 million face in my homecity. I thought Delhi was unlivable even in the late 1980s as a student when every girl of my age group had to endure regular eveteasing( aka sexual harrassment) in horridly crowded DTC buses. (Thats another story of my Delhi that merits a separate session of storytelling.) Tbh today’s Delhi is a living hell.
With an ever widening rich-poor divide, Delhi’s pollution has proven to be a great equalizer. Now the rich, ruling and the powerful elite cannot escape in their safe havens from the poisonous air.
During my last visit to Delhi in November 2017, I experienced suffocation, breathlessness and buring eyes, accompanied by hours of traffic jam on the roads.
I took a deep breath of fresh air as I landed in Toronto 3 days later. My heart still ached for the loved ones, including my mother in her late 70s and three beautiful nephews and a neice, I had left behind waving at the Delhi airport, who like millions of other seniors and children in the NCR waited eagerly for a breeze that could blow away the smog until next Diwali season. That breeze did not blow until mid-December.

I do agree with the Manager of Haji Hotel ( ref in Mayank Soofi’s article) that we dearly miss Ghalib’s brilliant satire on the current state of Delhi.
In the heart of my hearts I also thank my God that free-spirited Mirza lived in Delhi in a different era. You all can guess why.

Just to leave a pleasant taste in my own mouth( and maybe yours), let me pen off this blog with this song:
Pollution by Rahul Ram:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ggVfvauo28

Story #7: Broken Doll


YOURSTORYTELLER

is a social enterprise that creates digital talking comics based on true stories and raises awareness on the triumphs and struggles of common individuals.
We will be bringing digital stories based on or adapted from true stories, highlighting an important social issue in each story.

Story #7: Broken Doll ( Tooti Huyi Guriya):

Question: Do you think Sapna’s treatment of Rani was appropriate?¬†
Answer in Yes or No in the comments. 
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Child Domestic Work:

ILO published a report “Global Estimates on Forced Labour” in 2012.

According to the report there are approximately 20.9 million forced labourers
who are children aged 17 years and below, representing 26% of all forced labour victims (or 5.5 million children). While the specific number of children in forced labour and trafficking for domestic work remains unknown, evidence points to the existence of significant numbers of children in debt bondage, victims of trafficking and in servitude situations.

Child labour in domestic work refers to situations where domestic work is performed by children below the relevant minimum age (for light work, full-time non-hazardous work), in hazardous conditions or in a slavery-like situation.

  • 67.1% of all child domestic workers are girls;
  • 65.1% of all child domestic workers are below 14 years: 7.4 million aged 5 to 11 and 3.8 million aged 12 to 14;
  • child domestic work touches all regions of the world

The ILO has identified a number of hazards to which domestic workers are particularly vulnerable and the reason it may be considered in some cases a worst form of child labour. Some of the most common risks children face in domestic service include: long and tiring working days; use of toxic chemicals; carrying heavy loads; handling dangerous items such as knives, axes and hot pans; insufficient or inadequate food and accommodation, and humiliating or degrading treatment including physical and verbal violence, and sexual abuse. The risks are compounded when a child lives in the household where he or she works as a domestic worker. These hazards need to be seen in association with the denial of fundamental rights of the child, such as, for example, access to education and health care, the right to rest, leisure, play and recreation, and the right to be cared for and to have regular contact with their parents and peers. These factors can have an irreversible physical, psychological and moral impact on the development, health and wellbeing of a child.

Story #6: School Shoes (School ka Joota)


YOURSTORYTELLER

is a social enterprise that creates digital talking comics based on true stories and raises awareness on the triumphs and struggles of common individuals.
We will be bringing digital stories based on or adapted from true stories, highlighting an important social issue in each story.

Story #6: School Shoes (School Ka Joota)

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According to a report by World Bank, in 2016, a total of 263 million children from ages 5- 16 years did not go to school.

According to the report, among the first to be left outside school are those already in a vulnerable societal position because of gender, disability, caste, or belonging to a certain ethic group. Poverty is still one of the biggest obstacles to a child going to school.
The quality of education plays a part as well. If the quality of education is seen as poor, parents may not be ready to send their children to school, says the report.

According to UNICEF, #Pakistan has the world’s second-highest number of out-of-school children (OOSC) with an estimated 22.8 million children aged 5-16 not attending school, representing 44 per cent of the total population in this age group (Link 1).
India has 17.8 million Out of School Children between in ages 5-13 years. ( Link 2)

Education offers children a ladder out of poverty and a path to a promising future. 

Education is not a privilege. It is a human right.

Every child has the right to an education regardless of who they are, where they live or how much money their family has. 

 

Will India Pakistan Feed Their Hungry with War & Nuclear Weapons?


Poochhna hai ab mujhe yeh Hind-O-Pakistan sey,
Peit bhookon ka bharogey kya jang ke samaan sey?
(I now have to ask this from India and Pakistan, 
Will you feed your hungry with the weapons of war?).
~Kunwer Mahinder Singh Bedi Seher

India and Pakistan, both nuclear nations, have been embroilled in conflict over the territory of Kashmir since 1947. Several times in past 70+ years have they come very close to war.

However, their human life indices tell a very sordid story.

Global Hunger Index¬†for past 13 years has been ranking countries based on four key indicators — undernourishment, child mortality, child wasting and child stunting.¬†Zero is the best score and a reading above 100 is the worst.
You can see the detailed list here: https://www.globalhungerindex.org/results/.

Out of 119 countries ranked on global hunger index,  the countries ranks in South Asia region in 2019 were as:

  • Sri Lanka- 62
  • Nepal- 72
  • Bangladesh -86
  • India- 103 (was 100 in 2017 and 55 in 2014) (Score= 31.6)
  • Pakistan -106 (Score 32.6)

Together between these countries, there are over 1 billion children and youth whose lives are at stake because of warmongering, which is unnecessary and unwarranted.

Here are some pictures of children from India and Pakistan:

Hunger

Hunger 3

hunger 5

hunger 4

hunger 2

Story #4: Girl Refugees


YOURSTORYTELLER

is a social enterprise that creates digital talking comics based on true stories and raises awareness on the triumphs and struggles of common individuals.
We will be bringing digital stories based on or adapted from true stories, highlighting an important social issue in each story.

Story #4: Girl Refugee

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Girl Refugees  is a fictional story  on female feticide i.e. the termination of pregnancy when it is a girl child.

There are 50 million girls missing in the world due to female feticide.
Girls who are lost in the womb have no voice of their own.

This story is an attempt to give them the voice, and to make people realize, what if they were allowed to live a life everyone deserves.
Imagine as if you are hearing their pain from the skies !

Can Pakistan be Polio free?


 Published: July 31, 2019 here: Express Tribune Blogs

A Pakistani health worker administers polio vaccine drops to school children. PHOTO: GETTY

People who know me well know that I often compulsively compare and contrast India and Pakistan by virtue of not just their close proximity, but because I consider both countries as my home.

When the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared India polio free on March 27, 2014, after it had not had a single case since 2009, I was filled with great pride. Knowing that Indiais densely populated, afflicted with poverty and has poor access to healthcare for millions, polio eradication was indeed something to celebrate. But as in every such situation, I naturally wanted to know how long it would take Pakistan to reach this milestone.

As India has put an end to the polio epidemic, its neighbour Pakistan remains one of the three countries in the world that are still trying to eradicate the disease. I thought to myself, four times larger in size than Pakistan and more populated, so if India could do it, why can’t Pakistan?

With fingers crossed, I have kept my eyes on the numbers ever since. Polio cases dropped in Pakistan from over 300 in 2014 to 54 in 2015. This gave me hope. In 2016, polio cases further went down to 20 and then to eight in 2017.

It must be said here that it is remarkable how the entire world of healthcare had come together, spending $16 billion in the global polio drive over the last 31 years, to eradicate a disease that has in the past left many children disabled for life.

So I was certain in my heart of my hearts that Pakistan would get there.

Pak Fights Polio@PakFightsPolio

Hats off to the polio workers who carried on with their duties in the scorching heat of Baluchistan and successfully vaccinated about 33,000 children in District Jhal Magsi to in Pakistan.

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

PTI

‚úĒ@PTIofficial

Meet the 25 year old girl, who sets the perfect example of strong will and commitment. Role model for every woman, nothing can stop Shizza Illyas as she goes from door to door on her motorbike to help @Pakfightspolio end polio in Pakistan. 1/2

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But it was not meant to be and there are a confluence of factors that have prevented polio eradication from becoming a reality in Pakistan.

Amidst the politicisation of polio vaccines, not just polio workers, but the police officials accompanying them continued to be gunned down. Yet this still has not deterred the brave health workers from taking risks, high up in the mountains in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) or in the ghettos in Karachi, from ensuring that children are given proper and timely access to vaccines.

Early this year, rumours made rounds on social media that children were dying as a result of polio vaccines, thus creating a panic among the thousands of households whose children had been administered these vaccines. In retaliation, health centres were set on fire. It was also reported that a man had divorced his wife after he found out that she ensured their family was administered polio vaccines.

A video also surfaced on social media recently, where children were made to pretend to be dead by a man who wished to prove how dangerous polio vaccines are. Given the spread of such misinformation in the digital age, the proliferation and rise of such videos is deeply concerning and could prove to be a serious roadblock.

omar r quraishi

‚úĒ@omar_quraishi

The news that some children fell ill after being administered the polio vaccine in KP yesterday was fake – see it for yourself here – including the man who instructs the boys to feign illness and lie on the hospital bed

This man should be arrested immediately & prosecuted

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If all this wasn‚Äôt bad enough, just a couple of weeks ago we heard news of fake¬†polio markersbeing sold in Pakistan, which parents were using to mark their children‚Äôs finger to make it seem like they have already been¬†given those ‚Äėdangerous‚Äô two drops. This only further compounds the already arduous job of Pakistan‚Äôs polio workers.

What also damages the effectiveness of Pakistan’s polio drive is when polio workers are unable to reach certain localities. It has been reported that 37,678 children missed a recent special immunisation drive which was conducted in Bannu, Lakki Marwat and North Waziristan. While many children could not be given polio drops because their parents refused, 11,853 children could not be reached altogether. An inability to get access to these children will only further complicate an already difficult task.

I have never, and will probably never be able to understand the reasons as to why parents choose to ensure that their children are not given polio drops. Why can’t these people understand how detrimental this kind of rumour mongering can be?

Pak Fights Polio@PakFightsPolio

Parental mistrust & refusal to vaccinate drags 8 months old Imtiaz into lifelong pain & paralysis in District Jaffarabad of Baluchistan. His sorrowful father, holding himself responsible, appeals to parents to learn from his example and say yes to vaccination against polio.

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The push-back against polio vaccines stems largely from a whole host of myths which have been floating around for years. From people claiming that the drops are being used to sterilise Muslims, to the campaign being part of a ‚Äėwestern agenda‚Äô, to stories that children have died because of polio drops. The only valid criticism I have come across is the one pertaining to the¬†Shakil Afridi¬†case because it did indeed damage the trust of the communities to a great extent. However, very few know that he was part of the¬†hepatitis¬†vaccine campaign, not the polio vaccine.¬†

The New York Times

‚úĒ@nytimes

Polio vaccination teams are frequently targeted in Pakistan. Islamist militants and hard-line clerics say the vaccination drive is a foreign plot to sterilize Muslim children and a cover for western spies. https://nyti.ms/2XDqREm 

Security officials investigating an attack by gunmen on a polio vaccination team on Thursday that left one woman dead in the town of Chaman, in Pakistan.

Polio Vaccinator Is Shot and Killed in Pakistan

The woman was part of a vaccination campaign. Another worker in her team was injured. A total of three polio workers have been killed this week as unfounded rumors against vaccines spread.

nytimes.com

In contrast to 12 cases in 2018, there have been 47 reported cases of polio in 2019 so far. It is likely that this number will have gone up by the end of the year.

With every case of polio paralysis, the virus spreads to 200 more children in the neighbourhood. As a result, the virus has been found in multiple sewage samples in Karachi, Sindh, Balochistan, K-P and Punjab. Not just limited to Pakistan and Afghanistan, the same strain of polio virus has even been detected in sewage samples in Iran and in the Xinjiang province in China.

It seems that the polio virus is here to stay in Pakistan for much longer than we would want it to.

All the kids afflicted with polio paralysis, if they survive, will grow up to be adults on crutches and in wheelchairs. Many of them may not even be able to afford crutches and will be dragging their stick-thin, polio-afflicted limbs along the ground. Will they be living in abject poverty, dependent on their family, or will they resort to begging on the streets?

What about those hundreds of children who will be affected in the years to come?

As a Pakistani, as a doctor and as a mother, I am pleading with all the parents: please let those two drops help save your children’s future.

ilmana.fasih

Dr Ilmana Fasih

An Indian gynaecologist, married to a Pakistani, Ilmana is a health activist, and m-Health entrepreneur, who writes on social and health issues as a passion. She dreams of a world without borders and wars.

Story 1: Doll Bride ( Meri Guriya Ki Shaadi)


#YourStoryTeller

is a social enterprise that creates digital talking comics based on true stories and raises awareness on the triumphs and struggles of common individuals.
We will be bringing digital stories based on or adapted from true stories, highlighting an important social issue in each story.

Today’s story is:

“Doll Bride” (Meri Guriya Ki Shaadi).

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Question: Do you think the it is alright to marry girls before they are 18?
Please share your response to the question asked in the comments or on the YouTube page if you have subscribed there.

Every year 12 million girls are married before the age of 18. Unfortunately, child marriage is a global problem. Its cuts across faiths, nationalities, ethnicities and regions.

1 in 5 children become child brides and there exist almost 650 million women today who were married before 18 years of age.
Child marriage is detrimental to not just psychological but physical health of the girls.

 

 

Educate a woman and you educate an entire generation…


Recently a photo of a 25 year old Afghan girl Jahan Taab from  a remote poor village Oshto in Daikundi,  went viral when she was taking the college entrance exam called Kankor Exam while breast feeding her child. Later it was confirmed that she has passed the exams and wants to go to college to study Sociology. Photo credits are given to an invigilating lecturer Yahya Erfan. He was so moved by her determination that he posted the pictures on his facebook. Link here

“She got up from her desk when her baby started to get fussy. She sat down on the floor, breastfeeding the infant, and kept filling out the answers to the test.” (Buzzfeed).

She reportedly told the lecturer Mr. Erfan that she is worried about the cost of education and that the University is 8 hours from her residence. It is the power of social media that a Go-Fund was created to support the cost of here higher education.

More about JahanTaab

 

 

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Needless to say, girls’ determination to study is never an issue. The key barrier is the systemic patriarchy in the garb of cultural mores or religious edicts.

Patriarchy is such an omnipresent barrier that hinders women in all communities and all economic strata one way or the other. And here is where the role of men becomes extremely important in bringing about women empowerment by dismantling the walls of patriarchy.

Here I must share my own story too.

(Bear in mind I am an urban educated woman with a strong will power. But even then, had it also not been the supportive men in my life, I may not have sailed through various systemic hurdles that patriarchal infrastructures create at every nook and corner of a woman’s life).¬†

In the early 1990s, as an Indian medical graduate I had to go through a written and a clinical exam by Pakistan Medical and Dental Council to be certified to practice in Pakistan. I opted Karachi centre. When I received notification for the exam it said the exam will not be held in Karachi as there are no other candidates. The exam will be in Peshawer.

Since I lived in the Middle East, I was supposed to travel with my kids to Karachi where my in laws lived. But before I could even know and panic about how I will travel with kids to Peshawer, my husband first took an emergency leave from his hospital, and then informed me that we are all travelling to Peshawer. 

My husband Fasih and I, with our two kids- a toddler and a 6 month old breast feeding infant landed in Peshawar. It was a 3 day long exam- with a written paper and clinical exam.  From day 1, my husband sat in the lawn of the examination centre, with two babies, as he dropped me for the exam. I would come out to feed the baby every few hours in the breaks.

Funniest incident in the whole saga was when my daughter cried, “Papa potty.”
He ran with the baby in one hand and the toddler in another to the washroom.
As he entered the male washroom the guard said, “Take the girl to female washroom with her mother.”
“BUT mother is busy in exam.”
“Then wait.”
“But this baby cannot wait. She has to go urgently.”
So the guard let him take her to the washroom. And while holding the infant in arms he helped the toddler finish the job and clean her. 
Finally they came back to play and sit in the lawn again. 
And then he smelt the baby has soiled his diaper. He ran again to the same wash room.
The chowkidar got annoyed, “Ap pher se as gaye?” (You have come again?).
Fasih: “Smell this diaper.”
The guard laughed and commented, “Aur parhao biwi ko.”(Let your wife study more).

After day1 the entire examination team knew about my family and when I went from each viva and clinical exam, from Internal Medicine to General Surgery to ENT to ObGyn to Ophthalmology, first thing the professors asked was how are the husband and babies doing? 
Second question they asked was, “Where have you graduated from?”.¬†
On reply “Lady Hardinge Medical College in New Delhi” every single one of them began the viva with the comment, “So do we really need to test your knowledge?”
No bragging but I passed with the top position. 

The head examiner was Prof Zakaullah Beg who was my husband’s professor in his postgraduate life. He himself called Fasih on phone 2 weeks later in Karachi to break the news.

Moral of the story: Empower a woman and she will make her husband, family and entire community proud.

“A woman cannot use contraception without the husband‚Äôs permission.”


“A woman cannot use contraception without the husband‚Äôs permission.”

I wish men ever got pregnant and had to raise children the way mothers do to realize what a travesty of injustice this clause by Council of Islamic Ideology, Pakistan is. It should be the other way round….men must have the permission from women for not using contraception.

There is little consolation that contraception is not an ‘as big an issue here like in Catholicism'(as often compared by the apologists), but if Allah (SWT) allows it, I am sure the Almighty has granted this right to ¬†women knowing they are the ones who bear the children in their wombs and raise them. ¬†Making husbands be the police over contraception is injustice and no where in any holy texts can this be found. Why is it a rocket science that this is simply a patriarchal attempt by ¬†opportunistic men to control women?

Having worked in a conservative community in Makkah, Saudi Arabia in the field of ObGyn/Family Medicine for 14 years, I know exactly what this means.

Here is a true story, which I remember even the details of.

A 40/41 year old woman with 5 children, eldest in his late teens came to me asking for contraception. After discussion on pros & cons, she decided to choose a pill that was appropriate for her age.
Half an hour later, her husband, in early 60s banged the clinic door open and showed me the medication in his hand asking: “What is this?”
I told him “This is a medication for women.”
Him: “Is this contraceptive?”
Me: “Yes.”
He threw it in my dustbin and warned me that if I prescribed a contraceptive again, he will complain against me.
He closed my door back and I was later told that he dragged his wife to the car pulling her by her head scarf.

An year and a half later, the woman had a new baby.

Three years after the child was born this man suddenly died of brain hemorrhage at 67.
The lady was left with 6 children, 2 of them not even in their teens. And she was the second of the three wives he had left behind.
I saw her all the years, until I left the job, and I know in how much misery this woman in her mid to late forties was going through raising children as a widow on 1500 Saudi Riyals stipend as a widow.
(BTW this is one of several stories I personally encountered).

It is easy for men to dictate not to use contraception but it is extremely hard for women to raise children when men take decisions but do not follow through with responsibilities arising out of it.

Decision to bear children and their number must ideally be a joint responsibility. The woman must have a voice in that decision making instead of being forced upon her.

 

Sometimes calamities unite us more


First published here: http://amankiasha.com/detail_news.asp?id=1018

The conscience-shaking brutal rape and subsequent
death of the anonymous student from Delhi is not India’s issue alone and the grief is not for one case alone
By Ilmana Fasih

As thousands of people on both sides of the India Pakistan border mourned the death of the Delhi gang rape victim, someone commented on Aman ki Asha Facebook group: “Well, the Delhi rape proceeds from a common mindset. The negatives unite us just as well as the positives.”
“Sometimes, calamities unite us more,” came a response.

The conscience-shaking brutal rape and subsequent death of the anonymous student from Delhi (who is referred to by different names by various sections of the media) has made us rethink how common our pains are.

Beyond this tragic incident, looking through the e-newspapers from the subcontinent, there is hardly a day without some incident of rape being reported.Be it the gruesome gang-rape of a medical student at a bus stop in a megacity, or a six-year-old girl raped by local goons in a village, or a girl raped while partying with friends in the posh area of another city, or a teenager gang-raped and then asked to patch up by accepting money or marrying one of the rapists in a town. Can you guess which side of the border each case belongs to? The scenarios differ, cities differ, but the crime remains the same. The mindset stays identical. Age is no bar. Infancy upwards, one finds women and children of all age groups being subjected to rape and sexual abuse.

Unfortunately this is one situation where the human race seems to have achieved a “no barriers of age, color, creed or class”, the world over.

Hard to digest, but rapes are on a steep rise in the subcontinent.

In 2011, 568 rape cases were reported in Delhi, and 459 in 2009 (National Crime Reports Bureau) .The figures given by Delhi Police reveal that a woman is raped every 18 hours or molested every 14 hours in the capital.

Similarly in Pakistan, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, estimates that “every two hours a woman is raped in Pakistan and every eight hours a woman is subjected to gang-rape”.

The Additional Police Surgeon, quoted in a 2008 newspaper report, estimated that at least 100 rapes are committed in Karachi alone every 24 hours, although most are un-reported.

If these are the statistics of two megacities, one can fathom what would be the situation in the other smaller towns and villages. It is well known that the majority of the rapes in India, Pakistan and other South Asian countries are never reported, and just a handful of the perpetrators are ever punished.
The tragedy is amplified when inane solutions are offered like: “Women should not go out late at night” or “Women going out late night should be accompanied by a male.” In the ‘Delhi gang rape’ case, the solution of an accompanying man clearly failed.

Women are advised not to wear western clothes, or more ridiculous “not to eat chow mein” or “not to carry mobile phones with cameras”. Some even advise women to not report the attack “if there are not enough witnesses”.

But none of this well-meaning advice takes into account why rapes occur. It is not because the woman was dressed so, or walked alone on the street late at night, or was attending a party with her friends or ate¬†a certain kind of food. No. Rape occurs because some men want to rape. And why do ‘some’ men want to rape and not others? Rape is the culmination of a series of systematic experiences that a man is exposed to, from infancy to manhood- in which he is told, with or without so many words, that he is stronger, and a woman is not just weaker, but a commodity at his disposal. Rape is a way to display power and superiority.

So long as this mindset persists, legislation and punishment will never be enough of a deterrent. This tends to get overlooked in all the outrage at the gruesome details of the Delhi gang rape, that has led to demands for the severest of punishments, even public hanging for the perpetrators.
Without undermining that tragedy it is important to remind ourselves of the countless cases of rape and sexual harassment that are routine on both sides of the divide. Those who survive suffer psychological trauma, often far from the media limelight, mostly in silence.

Rape survivors are often pressured by the police or local goons to hush up the matter either, to accept money, or worse still, marry the rapist. Many commit suicide, or live with permanent scars. The rapists often roam scot free, posing a threat to the survivor who does not even dare to raise her head for justice.

Insisting on the death penalty in an isolated case that has shaken people cannot be a solution. Studies have shown that the certainty of punishment, rather than its severity, is a greater deterrent to crime.

We also need to look towards at preventing this crime rather than just push for a punishment after a case gets highlighted.

Foremost, each of us, irrespective of gender, which empathises with the Delhi student who was gang-raped, or any other faceless rape victim, needs to strive to ensure every woman in our sphere of influence feels secure and gets due respect. One of the signs of evolution in human beings is the neo cortex which enables us to restrain behaviour and train our minds. We need to use it to ensure that we don’t force anything upon any woman – or indeed anyone in a more vulnerable position.

Secondly, we need to empower girls with the right information and stop making rape a taboo issue for their ‘innocent’ minds. It is more important to teach a girl to be assertive than to try and¬†‘protect’ her. “Look up as you walk and stand up straight; pretending as though you have two big panthers on either side of you as you walk may sound silly, but it can help boost confidence,” suggests a self help site on rape prevention. “Attackers are more likely to go for those who they think cannot defend themselves.”

Given that over 90% of the perpetrators are known to the victims, girls (and boys) must be taught that if they feel uncomfortable with anyone’s touch – even if it is an uncle, a cousin or a friend – they must trust their gut and not let it continue. Thirdly, if we cannot change the mindset of some grown men, we can at least guide our sons, right from babyhood, to respect women and not consider them a commodity that is ‘available’. Last but certainly not the least, for those who cannot change their mindsets, a real need for certainty and not the severity of punishment to the rapist, as a mode of deterrence, is mandatory.

Shocked after the demise of the Delhi paramedical¬†student, I tweeted: “Her sacrifice must no go in vain. Let us rise to make violence against women a history.” Knowing the scale of the menace, this may be wishful thinking, but we need to keep striving to make it a reality.

The writer is an Indian gynaecologist married to a Pakistani, a proud Indian Pakistani dreaming of a peaceful, healthy and prosperous South Asia.
ilmana_fasih@hotmail.com.

She tweets @zeemana

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

A tribute to Delhi gang raped girl, inititially known as Amanat, Nirbhaya or Damini:

Goodbye Damini РA tribute to Nirbhaya

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