Archive for July 28, 2015

A campaign to abort the abortion stigma

abortion -stigma

A unique campaign to dispel myths and misconceptions and create a platform to normalize conversations around the issue of abortion

By CREA Team

AbortTheStigma is a campaign launched by CREA – a New Delhi based feminist human rights organisation in partnership with Youth Ki Awaaz that aims to combat stigma and shame surrounding women’s rights and access to safe abortion services in India.

Though abortion is legal in India under a variety of conditions and is regulated by the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, awareness and access to safe and legal abortion is very limited. This limited understanding gives rise to social stigma which often prevents open and honest conversations about the issue. This negatively impacts not only women’s health but also reinforces patriarchal norms that constrain women’s autonomy, bodily integrity and expression of their sexuality. Access to safe abortion services is an important aspect of comprehensive reproductive justice platform to achieve social justice and equality. This campaign aims to dispel myths and misconceptions and create a platform to normalize conversations around the issue of abortion.

The three month long campaign will culminate on 28th September, 2015, coinciding with the Global Day of Action for Access to Safe and Legal Abortion. We invite you to participate in our campaign throughout, and encourage you to speak out about the need for abortion among your friends, family, and community members in order to finally #AbortTheStigma.

For more information please visit the campaign page.
abortion-poster-india

APJ Kalam was a missile man, let us not get carried away by epithets like “People’s President”

APJ-kalam

Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, the 11th President of India, popularly known as a ‘missile man’ passed away on Monday, after a cardiac arrest, in Shillong, North East India. He was 83. It was alleged by activists that Kalam’s nomination in 2002 by the then BJP-led NDA, was an attempt to whitewash BJP’s alleged role in the Gujarat violence which claimed over 2000 lives with several still missing. BJP ideologue Sudheendra Kulkarni described it as “an attempt to project BJP’s secularism in the aftermath of Gujarat violence.” Here is a response from feminist activist Jayashree Velankar about the tributes pouring in for a man who played a big role in the nuclearisation of the country.

This was written to share my frustrations over the tributes pouring in from all quarters for Dr. APJ Kalam. I am disturbed by some of the tributes paid by some within ‘our’ circles of friends and fellow travelers.

There is no doubt Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam was an humble man, came from a very poor family, struggled against many odds, was opposed to death penalty but the fact remains that he was a Missile Man. Kalam chose to build weapons of mass destruction. I can’t call him “People’s President” and I am not sorry I can’t pay tributes to him.

To all those, especially amongst ‘us’ – the social activists, who have said he was ‘visionary’, ‘statesman’, ‘rushitulya’ (like a Sage), ‘apolitical’ my earnest plea is to ponder over these few things:

1) Rajdeep Sardesai, in my opinion, was the first journalist to use the adjective “People’s President” for Kalam. The rationale was, unlike other presidents who kept a safe distance from people in the name of protocol, Kalam mingled with people freely and answered emails by common people, especially young people and school children. All these were welcome gestures but do they suffice for us to call him People’s President – somebody who excelled in building weapons that would kill tens of thousands of ‘people’?

Make no mistake here. Nuclear weapons will make no distinction between people from Pakistan and India. They would kill thousands, if not more on both sides of the border

2) As my comrade in peace movement, Sukla Sen pointed out, Kalam played a big role in India’s nuclearisation that has had disastrous consequences like Pakistan going nuclear within a fort night of India doing so, Kargil war, hijacking of IA plane in December 1999, Parliament attack in New Delhi in 2001 to name a few. Only hawks can think this to be ‘visionary’. Can we?

3) Yes, he opposed death penalty but again isn’t it a bitter irony? By building missiles, in reality, he signed death warrants for thousands.

4) This ‘great statesman’ kept mum when George Fernandes and others in NDA government sacked Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat in a most humiliating manner when Bhagwat exposed huge scams and Fernandes’s connections with illegal arms trade ( I haven’t found the time to cross check this part so I will stand corrected)

5) Nirmalaji Deshpande, well known Gandhian and a staunch opponent of nuclear weapons was chosen by Congress party to be the next President of India. (I think NDTV had made an announcement to this effect) but then a doubt was raised – will she allow use of nuclear weapons in case a war breaks out with Pakistan and her name was dropped like a hot potato. All those who argue that someone like APJ – a Muslim getting the highest office is a sign of maturity of Indian democracy, please rethink. His being Muslim was overlooked only because he was a Missile Man. In the eyes of jingoists, Nirmalaji lacked phallus on both accounts – being a woman and by opposing nuclear weapons. (Eventually Pratibha Patil was chosen as his successor.)

Traditional protocol demands one to be not critical of a person who is no more. But as a feminist peacenik, my conscience demands that I bring these facets to the fore.

Activists write to President seeking stay on Yakub Memon execution

Yakub- Memon

By Team FI
Several left wing Politicians, human rights activists and feminists have written a mercy petition to the President of India requesting clemency for Yakub Memon.

Memon was awarded death sentence by the TADA court for his involvement in the 1993 Mumbai serial bomb blasts and is scheduled to be hanged on 30 July.

Here is the full text of the mercy letter to the President of India;
To,
His Excellency,
The Hon’ble President of India
Rashtrapati Bhavan,
New Delhi

Subject: New Mercy Petition Urging Stay Against Imminent Execution of Yakub Abdul Razak Memon

May it Please Your Excellency:

This is a mercy petition for Yakub Abdul Razak Memon, who is scheduled to be executed on 30 July 2015 as per the execution warrant issued by the TADA Court.

We, the undersigned, through this petition urge Your Excellency to stay the imminent execution so that the substantive and fresh grounds raised herein can be considered on merits.

A. Preliminary Grounds

•An International Commitment to abolish death penalty – We the signatories of this mercy petition humbly make the statement that in India death penalty cannot be imposed till such time Parliament of India decides not to abolish death penalty and the reasons for the same, are as under:
The universal declaration of Human Rights adopted by the General Assembly on 10.12.1948 defined certain human rights and fundamental freedoms which need to be protected. Among the subsequent human right documents, the most important are the two covenants adopted by the General Assembly in 1966: The Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its Optional Protocol and the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. India became a party to both these covenant by ratifying them on 27.3.1979. There are two optional protocols to the covenant, the Second Protocol aims at the abolition of death penalty.

Article VI of Part-III of the covenant on civil and political rights lays down as under:
•Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No-one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.

•In countries which have not abolished the death penalty, sentence of death may be imposed only for the most serious crime.

•Anyone sentenced to death shall have the right to seek pardon or commutation of the sentence amnesty or commutation of death may be granted in all cases.

The President of India under Article 72 of the Constitution of India has the power to grant pardon and to suspend, remit or commute sentence in certain cases. It is in this way the constitution of India permits right of appeal. Sub-clause of Article 6 of Part-III of the Covenant as referred above provides that commutation of sentence of death may be granted in all cases. In the circumstance, we will have to understand as to why “may” has been used for commutation of the sentence of death to be granted by the President. The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in Deewan Singh Vs. Rajendra Prasad Ardevi (2007) 10 SC 528 while interpretating “may” where powers is conferred upon a public authority coupled with direction, the word “may” which connotes direction should be constitute to mean a command. In India this power of pardon is to be exercised by the President and therefore under no circumstances for empowering the President the word “shall” could have been used in the covenant but it means a command i.e. commutation of sentence of death must be granted in all cases by President, till such time Parliament of India decides that it will continue the penalty of death sentence. After signing of covenant, the Parliament of India has not considered any amendment in the Indian Penal Code for abolition of death sentence.

The second optional protocol to the International covenant on civil and political rights reads as under:
“The States Parties to the present Protocol,
- Believing that abolition of the death penalty contributes to enhancement of human dignity and progressive development of human rights,
- Recalling Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted on 10 December 1948, and Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, adopted on 16 December 1966,
- Noting that Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights refers to abolition of the death penalty in terms that strongly suggest that abolition is desirable,
- Convinced that all measures of abolition of the death penalty should be considered as progress in the enjoyment of the right to life,
- Desirous to undertake hereby an international commitment to abolish the death penalty,
Have agreed as follows:
Article 1:
1. No one within the jurisdiction of a State Party to the present Protocol shall be executed.
2. Each State Party shall take all necessary measures to abolish the death penalty within its jurisdiction.
Article 2:
1. No reservation is admissible to the present Protocol, except for a reservation made at the time of ratification or accession that provides for the application of the death penalty in time of war pursuant to a conviction for a most serious crime of a military nature committed during wartime.”
As regards covenant we may submit that a covenant is a treaty and it lays down a notable step forward in the protection of human rights within the framework of the United Nations and constitutes the basic provisions of International Bill of Rights. The two covenants also demonstrate the way in which the United Nations is overcoming its earlier hesitations about the enforcement of human rights obligations. It is almost an accepted provision of law that rules of customary International Law which are not contrary to Municipal Law shall be deemed to be incorporated in the domestic law.

The plea of enforceability of various International covenant is now no longer a matter of debate but should be considered to be firmly established as a part of international law which the domestic courts are duty bound to give effect to.

2. Present Petition Meets Procedural Requirements
This Mercy Petition satisfies the legal requirements applicable to a fresh mercy petition as per G. KrishtaGoud v. State of A.P., (1976) 1 SCC 157para10 and clause VII-(A) of the Procedure Regarding Petitions for Mercy in Death Sentence Cases, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India.

3. Death Warrant fixing the date of Execution is Illegal
Yakub Memon was not given advance notice of the death warrant hearing and as a result of which he and his lawyers could not participate and contest the issuance of the death warrant. Lack of hearing makes the present death warrant void in light of the Supreme Court decision in Shabnam v. Union of India &Ors, Writ Petition (Criminal) No. 88 of 2015 (decided on May 27, 2015).

B. Fresh Grounds on Merits
Following are some very disturbing aspects of this case which make the award of death sentence of Yakub Memon as grossly unfair, arbitrary and excessive.

1. Long Duration of Trial and Incarceration Suffered Till Date
Yakub Memon has served more than 20 years in prison since his arrest. His trial took 14 years to complete. While the Hon’ble Supreme Court used this long period of incarceration as a mitigating circumstance to commute the death sentences of the other 10 co-accused persons, it applied a different yardstick to Yakub. The Hon’ble Supreme Court has repeatedly held that lengthy incarceration during pendency of appeal in death cases is a significant mitigating circumstance which ought to be considered in determination of sentence. In the interests of justice we request you to give due importance to this. The government to that extent is not bound by the conclusions arrived at by the Supreme Court (See Shanker v. State of U.P. (1975) 3 SCC 851; Vivian Rodrick v. The State of West Bengal (1971) 1 SCC 468);Kehar Singh v. Union of India(1989) 1 SCC 204para 10.

2. Yakub Memon is Mentally Unfit for Execution
Yakub Memon has been suffering from schizophrenia for the last 20 years which makes him unfit for execution. His mental condition has been certified by jail doctors. Schizophrenia as a mental illness has been held by the Supreme Court (Shatrughan Chauhan v. Union of India, (2014) 3 SCC 1 para 86-87)to render a convict unfit for execution. Your Excellency is required to consider the mental health of a convict before deciding his mercy petition, and can summon his medical records from the prison from the time of his arrest.

3. Role in the 1993 Bomb Blasts Conspiracy

Tiger Memon and Dawood Ibrahim as the Main Conspirators

As per the case of the prosecution, the 1993 bomb blasts were orchestrated by Tiger Memon and Dawood Ibrahim to seek revenge for the demolition of Babri Masjid in Ayodhya (YakubMemon v. State of Maharashtra, (2013) 13 SCC 1 para 148, 1253). Both Tiger Memon and Dawood Ibrahim have been absconding and Yakub, brother of Tiger Memon, who was not the main actor in the conspiracy, is being executed.

Commuted Co-accused played a larger role in the Conspiracy than Yakub Memon: Prejudiced on Account of being Tiger Memon’s Brother

The TADA Court convicted 100 persons and awarded death penalty to 11 persons. In appeal, the Supreme Court commuted the death sentences of all the convicts except Yakub Memon. In comparison to Yakub Memon, the 10 co-accused persons whose death sentences were commuted planted the bombs themselves and played a much more critical and direct role in the actual execution of the bomb blast conspiracy. Several of whom even travelled to Pakistan for arms training. This shows Yakub Abdul Razak Memon who is facing an imminent execution only on account of being Tiger Memon’s younger brother.

Witness in the case
Unlike the main accused, Yakub Memon surrendered before the authorities, a fact which has been confirmed on July 24 by the then officer in charge of the entire operation. He is the person who has provided information about Pakistan involvement. His execution will weaken the case against the involvement of the Pakistan agencies as there are no other witnesses available.

4. Death Sentence of Convicts in other Terror Cases Commuted

It is also worthwhile to note that death sentences imposed on the aides of Veerappan (convicted and sentenced to death under TADA), Rajiv Gandhi killers and Devender Pal Singh Bhullar have been commuted recently by the Supreme Court. While the mercy petitions of Verappan’s aides, Rajiv Gandhi’s three killers and Devender Pal Singh Bhullar were decided belatedly by the President, thereby giving them the claim of delay jurisprudence, the Home Ministry has moved swiftly to reject Yakub Abdul Razak Memon’s mercy’s petition. It seems that subjective feelings are the basis of decisions which lead to arbitrary actions.

5. Death Sentence awarded under TADA which was repealed for being Unfair and Discriminatory

Yakub Memon has been tried and sentenced to death under TADA, a special law which was repealed by the Parliament on account of it having been used to target the minorities. The Supreme Court in Vijaykumar Baldev Mishra v. State of Maharashtra, (2007) 12 SCC 687para 30 also doubted the legality of prosecutions pursued after the repeal of TADA. Given the highly compromised rule of law credentials of TADA, executing Yakub Memon will perpetuate the dark legacy of this law.

Final Plea
We most humbly request your Excellency to consider the case of Yakub Abdul Razak Memon and spare him from the noose of the death for a crime that was master-minded by someone else to communally divide the country. Grant of mercy in this case will send out a message that while this country will not tolerate acts of terrorism, as a nation we are committed to equal application of the power of mercy and values of forgiveness, and justice.

Blood letting and human sacrifice will not make this country a safer place; it will, however, degrade us all.

Yours Sincerely,

Justice Panachand Jain (Retd) Justice P. B. Sawant (Retd)

Justice A. Suresh (Retd) Justice K. P. Siva Subramaniam (Retd)

Justice S. N. Bhargava (Retd)

Majeed Memon (MP)

Sitaram Yechury (MP)

Prakash Karat

M. K. Raina

Ram Rahman

Vivan Sundaram

Brinda Karat

Prof. Prabhat Patnaik

Prof. C. P. Chandrasekhar

Prof. Utsa Patnaik

Madhu Prashad

Anees Azmi

Parthiv Shah

Prof. Irfan Habib

Prof. Arjun Dev

Prof. D. N. Jha

WSS Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression
Saheli Women’s Resource Centre
Forum Against Oppression of Women
LABIA Queer Feminist Collective
Kalyani MenonSen
Gita Sen
Vani Subramaniam
Rohini Hensmen
Gabriele Dietrich
Niraj Malik
Javed Malick
Kiran Shaheen
Dyuti Ailawadi
Indira Jaising
Ramlath Kavil
Supriya Madangarli
Amrita Shodhan
Geetanjali Gangoli
Helen Saldana
Albertina Almeida
Pushpa Achanta
Kalpana Mehta
Arundhati Dhuru
Vineeta Bal
Malini Subramaniam
Sumi Krishna
Ratna Appnender
Sujata Patel
Chayanika Shah
Sadhna Arya
Asmita Basu
.
Johanna Lokhande
Pyoli Swatija
Vrinda Grover
Pamela Philipose
Achin Vanaik
Mamta Singh
Ardhendu Sen
Parijata
Sakina Bahora
Juhi Jain
Meena Seshu
Vahida Nainar
Indira Chakravarthy
Anubha Rastogi
Soma KP
Abha Bhaiya
Runu Chakraborty
Shraddha Chickerur
Mihira Sood
Nisha Biswas
Ilina Sen
Preetha Nair
Rakhi Sehgal
Shoma Sen
Greeshma Aruna Rai
Uma Chandru
Shals Mahajan
Sujata Gothoskar
Sandhya Gokhale
Nikita Sonavane
Veena Shatrughna
Manisha Gupte
Dhruv Mankad
Prof KS Jacob
Anchita Ghatak
Vinay Kulkarni
Jhuma Sen
Jinee Lokanita
Shubha Chacko
Prof Uma Chakravarthy
Shahida Murtaza
Mary Beth
Nizara Hazarika
Sulakshana Nandi
Renu Khanna
N.B. Sarojini
Dr Saraswathi Ganapathy
Dr Anant Phadke
S Srinivasan
Dr Yogesh Jain
Dr Mohan Rao
Dr C. Sathyamala
Dr Pragati Mohapatra
Dr N.Raghuram
Dr K.J.Mukherjee
Asha Kilaru
Dr Binayak Sen PUCL
Dr Mira Shiva
Dr Thelma Narayan
Pallavi Gupta
Veena Johari
Svati Joshi
Sowmya Dechamma
R. Srivatsan
Susie Tharu
Dolly Daftary
Deepa Venkatachalam
Admiral L. Ramdas
Lalita Ramdas
Anuradha Kapoor
Dr D Swati
Kannamma Raman
Papori Bora
Jagdish Patel
Inalpathamkalam
Madhu Mehra
Satish Chennur

Protect free speech and accountability, nation-wide support pours in for Teesta Setalvad

save-democracy-India

By Team FI
Support is pouring in for Teesta Setalvad and her husband Javed Anand following the CBI raids on their residence that began on Tuesday, 13th July. Social activists have been alleging that the Hindu nationalist party BJP’s Narendra Modi led Government has been repeatedly attacking Setalvad and her organsiation for helping the victims of Gujarat violence that shook the secular conscience of the country in 2002. Human rights activists and civil rights organizations have alleged that the Gujarat violence was orchestrated by Modi who was then the Chief minister of Gujarat. One of the ex ministers of the then Modi state government in Gujarat is currently serving jail term for her involvement in the riot that claimed about 3000 lives.

Feministsindia is compiling statements issued by organizations in support of Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand.

We, the concerned citizens and activists stand by Teesta Setalvad, Javed Anand & their organisations.
We accept the challenge to counter war against Justice and Democracy unleashed by the Modi Government and the Indian state.

Rohit Prajapati and Trupti Shah, Activists
The Narendra Modi led Union Government and the Indian State has declared war against Teesta Setalvad, Javed Anand and their organisations as they are fight to seek justice for the victims of Gujarat Carnage 2002. Inspite of all the means adopted by the Modi Government to sabotage the process of Justice, Mr. Narendra Modi even as Gujarat Chief Minister with a pliable bureaucracy at his disposal was unable to defend themselves legally and morally. In his new avatar now as the Prime Minister, the Modi Government and Indian state has declared their war against Justice. We, the concerned citizens and activists accept the challenge.

This Modi Government’s continuous harassment of Teesta Setalvad, Javed Anand and their organisations is de-facto war against Justice and also against all such organisations and activists who have taken up the struggle to defend the cause of Justice, Human Rights on various people’s issues.

We, the concerned citizens and activists stand by Teesta Setalvad, Javed Anand & their organisations and accept the challenges of Modi Government and Indian State and are determined to continue our protest in peaceful and democratic manner.

It is time for all movements, organisations and activists to give a united fight to this Modi Government and Indian State’s war against Justice. It is time to show our united strength against the fascist forces.

We, the concerned citizens and activists resolve to continue our fight for Justice and Truth, to uphold the values of Human Rights, to stand up and speak-out for the oppressed against injustice of all kinds, unafraid of all consequences.

People’s Alliance for Democracy and Secularism : Press Statement
PADS strongly condemns the CBI raids of 14 July 2915 at the premises of social activist Teesta Setalvad, her husband Javed Anand, Gulam Mohammed Peshimam and office of Sabrang Communications and Publishing in Mumbai. These raids are undertaken for purely vindictive reasons given the assurances of complete cooperation and submission of thousands of pages of documents to the CBI. It is by now an open secret that activists working for justice and truth with regard to the pogrom called ‘Gujarat Riots’ have earned the hatred and animosity of the Modi government; which does not hesitate to employ official state power to indulge in a witch-hunt.

Setalvad and Anand set up Sabrang Communications and began publishing Communalism Combat in 1993, and not after 2002. It was this company that published the Justice Srikrishna Commission Report on the Mumbai communal riots of 1992-1993 at a time when the state government would not make it available to the public. The state not only fails in its constitutional duty to protect all citizens from unlawful deprivation of life and liberty under Article 21, but hounds and intimidates all those who seek to uphold human rights and democratic values.

It may also be noted that a senior Public Prosecutor, Rohini Salian, has accused the NIA of showing a bias in favour of certain persons accused of terrorist crimes. None other than the respected Julio Rebeiro, retired Police Commissioner of Punjab, has asked the public to take serious note of what Ms Salian has alleged. Furthermore, a Gujarat special judge, Ms Jyotsna Yagnik, stated in May this year that she has received 22 threats since retirement, on account of her role in convicting those responsible for the Naroda Patiya massacre in 2002. Her security cover was not enhanced, but scaled down.

It is also noteworthy that the final hearings in the Zakia Jafri Criminal Revision Application are due to begin on July 27. Mrs Jafri seeks to make top-level politicians, including the then Gujarat chief minister, and top-level policemen, including the present Commissioner of Police, Shivanand Jha, former joint CP, Crime Branch, AK Sharma (now in the CBI ) answerable for criminal and administrative culpability for their role in 2002.

Seen together, in their entirety, the above facts are a cause for grave concern to all Indian citizens. They portend nothing less than an undeclared Emergency. Lovers of democracy should resist the ruthless campaign of intimidation unleashed against Sabrang Communications. PADS demands that the Union Government abandon its hostile and vindictive stance towards human rights defenders and concentrate on upholding the rule of law and providing justice to innocent Indian citizens who have fallen victim to bloodthirsty communal politics.

CBI search seeks to intimidate and humiliate, Teesta Setalvad

Teesta-setalvad-raid

Instead of looking at cases like Vyapam scam and Asaram Bapu cases wherein witnesses have been killed, or cases where politicians have been implicated in crimes, CBI is being used to attack human rights defenders

By Team FI
India’s Central Bureau of Intelligence (CBI), On 13 July, launched a search on the residence of social activist Teesta Setalvad and her husband Javed Anand and office of Sabrang Communications and Publishing. This was related to the case filed against Setalvad and her organisation which alleged that they violated Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) rules.

The CBI had registered a case on July 8 against all these under IPC Section related to criminal conspiracy (120-B) along with provisions of Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, 2010 and Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, 1976.

The following is the statement received from Teesta Setalvad on Tuesday evening:
As I write this, the search is still not concluded. It is shocking that while over a dozen members of the CBI are still in our premises conducting the search, the CBI’s Delhi spokesperson is misleading the public and our vast supporters by a series of misinformations and official tweets.

In our view, and we repeat, no laws have been broken by us. This is a continuation of the persecution and witch-hunt first launched by the Gujarat police in 2014 then under the dispensation that rules Delhi. The CBI has taken the same documents that we had voluntarily, on inspection, given the MHA (FCRA dept). Over 25,000 pages of documentary evidence have been given to the Gujarat Police. When they could not succeed with the bizarre and desperate attempts to gain custody (February 2015), it was the Gujarat Government’s Home Department that wrote to the MHA and the current round of the persecutions began.

It’s shameful political vendetta. The Zakia Jafri case begins its final hearings on July 27 2015. The Naroda Patiya appeals (Maya Kodnani and Bajrangi) are being heard in the Gujarat High Court tomorrow. This is nothing but a bid to subvert the cause of public justice and ensure that no justice happens in these cases

We had written to the CBI offering full cooperation. The so called offences relate to documentary evidence. This search is nothing but an attempt to intimidate and humiliate. India should be ashamed that when scams like Vyapam are happening, over 50 persons dying, witnesses in Asaram Bapu case are dying, the CBI is not appealing in critical cases related to crimes by politicians The agency is being unleashed on human rights defenders standing up for the rights of Survivors of Mass Violence. It is worse than the British Raj. Pathetic.

I repeat Sabrang Communications has broken no law(s). One: Section 3 of FCRA, 2010 bars certain ‘persons’ (political parties and its office bearers, government servants and those associated with registered newspapers and those involved in the production and broadcast of news) from receiving foreign donations. However, the very next section, Section 4 which is subtitled ‘Persons to whom section 3 shall not apply’ states: “Nothing contained in section 3 shall apply to the acceptance, by any person specified 3 in that section, of any foreign contribution where such contribution is accepted by him, subject to the provisions of section 10- (a) by way of salary, wages or other remuneration due to him or to any group of persons working under him, from any foreign source or by way of payment in the ordinary course of business transacted in India by such foreign source”.

Sabrang Communications and Publishing Pvt. Ltd Co. which published the monthly ‘Communalism Combat’ signed a Consultancy Agreement with Ford Foundation in 2004 and 2006 “to address the issues of caste and communalism” through a clearly defined set of activities which had nothing whatsoever to do with Communalism Combat or remuneration to Javed Anand or Teesta Setalvad towards discharging editorial/managerial functions. The Consultancy was signed by Sabrang Communications only after advice from eminent legal counsel that such an agreement was covered under the exclusion stipulated under Section 4 of the Act and therefore the consultancy fees (not grant or donation) received would not be in violation of FCRA 2010. Ford Foundation in fact deducted TDS with every installment of consultancy fees it paid to Sabrang Communications. The activities undertaken and the expenses incurred were in accordance with the agreement. Activities and Financial Reports were submitted annual to the satisfaction of Ford Foundation.

Two, Sabrang has kept records and provided copies of the same to the FCRA during the inspection visit of FCRA team in Mumbai on June 9 and 10, 2015, Additional documents as required were also posted to FCRA department.

Three: Deliberately or otherwise, the FCRA team is confusing the well- known lobbying that is part of the political process in the USA with advocacy initiatives whereby NGOs, civil society activists engage with the government of the day to draw their attention towards the legitimate issues of women, children, dalits, religious or linguistic or sexual minorities, differently-baled persons etc. It is ridiculous to equate such advocacy initiatives with lobbying. Sabrang Communications therefore denies all the allegations.

Four: While believing in the rule of law and due process, we believe that the State has innumerable devices at its disposal to simply throttle dissent, intimidate and through these crass techniques try to ensure coercive compliance.

How ‘Per Vaginal Examination’ turned into the ‘two-finger test’

sterilization deaths

Indian laws, clearly stating the role of health professionals while carrying out examination of sexual violence survivors, do not make any reference to assessing virginity of the survivor, degree of habituation to sexual acts, status of the hymen and status of the vaginal elasticity. Despite this, and in the absence of standard medical protocols in such cases, Indian forensic medicine and medico legal bodies continue to refer to these aspects

By Sangeeta Rege

The issue of sexual violence requires a multi-disciplinary approach in order to provide comprehensive response to sexual violence. This multi-disciplinary approach requires several systems such as criminal justice system, health system, child welfare committees etc. to interact with each other. This short article focuses on the role of the health sector vis a vis sexual violence.

The Indian law has clearly laid down role for health professionals in responding to sexual violence. Sec 164A of CrPC lays down the components of medico legal examination namely seeking informed consent for carrying out examination and providing a logical medical opinion for results of the examination. It does not make any reference to assessing virginity of the survivor, degree of habituation to sexual acts, status of the hymen and status of the vaginal elasticity. Despite this fact medico legal examination continues to constantly make a reference to these aspects. These techniques have been devised and perpetuated in forensic medicine text books.

The problem is further compounded by the lack of standard protocol for medico legal care of survivors. Health professionals across the country continue to assess the hymenal status of survivors, determine laxity of vagina by carrying out a finger test, look for marks of resistance on her genitals or body, record physical attributes like built, height, weight etc.

To add to this confusion, the Delhi health department put out an advisory stating that finger test can be conducted in some instances such as to determine internal injures for rape survivors. The advisory confused the term “finger test” with the clinical examination term “ Per Vaginal (PV) Examination”.

Let us decode these confusions:

• Finger test – Finger test emerged from forensic medicine as a way of determining whether a person is habituated to sexual violence. It is done by inserting one or 2 fingers inside the vagina of a woman . If more than 1 finger passes without difficulty , the woman is said to be habituated to sexual activity . Such a test is unscientific and is rooted in biases and stereotypes about rape and misconceptions about virginity. Several High Courts and Supreme Courts have already called it an unscientific test and have asked health professionals to refrain from it. It also contravenes Section 146 of the Indian evidence act of 1872.

• Other unscientific tests – Just like the finger test, Forensic medicine has also developed methods of recording old tears to the hymen to state that the woman is habituated. They ask providers to measure height – weight to argue that if she is well built than the perpetrator, she could not have been over powered . These comments too are in complete contravention of the Section 146 of the Indian Evidence Act (IEA), 1872.

• Overemphasis on injuries – Forensic medicine in India further essentialises the presence of genital and physical injuries on the survivor . Absence of such injuries makes the doctors suspicious about whether the survivor is reporting the “ truth” or was it a consensual act . It is important to lay down facts about absence of injuries . Aspects like fear, threat to life, being too shocked / numbed by the attack , being rendered unconscious etc prevents the survivor from resisting the perpetrator.

However doctors do not take in to account circumstances in which sexual violence occurs and so are unable to understand the lack of injuries on bodies of survivor . Evidence from WHO multi country study 2003 also shows that only 1 in 3 survivors have chances of sustaining any injury . The changes in the law especially CLA 2013 in its explanation (2) to section 375 IPC has clarified that lack of injuries should not be understood as consent to the sexual act . However these changes have still not found its way in the medico legal practices across the country

• Overemphasis on presence of medico legal evidence – Medical professionals , police as well as the Judiciary believe that medico legal evidence is the most clinching form of evidence in the form of semen , blood traces , sperms , saliva , etc which will help in conviction of a perpetrator of sexual violence . In fact in a case of child sexual abuse , the judge allowed an acquittal for lack of medical evidence in the form of seminal stains , despite the fact that the 8 year old child had given the history of fingering in the vagina . This is the extent of how misplaced the understanding on medical evidence is even with the highest echelon in the justice system . What is gravely missed is that medico legal evidence rapidly erodes with time as well as activities such as washing , bathing , gargling, urinating etc . A survivor often needs time to come to terms with the assault , consult family members and reach a hospital or police station . So in many instances evidence of semen , blood etc is not found . But this is misinterpreted as sexual violence did not take place by doctors and thus they are unable to explain the lack of positive forensic medical evidence.

There is a need to correct the biases and prejudices related to understanding of medical evidence

• If a survivor has reported peno- vaginal assault or there are clinical signs / symptoms such as vaginal pain, bleeding , discharge etc. they indicate a need for internal examination only then a Per Vaginal Examination (which should not be confused with finger test ) is done . This is done with the purpose of identifying clinical causes underlying a specific medical condition. This examination requires fingers to be inserted in the vagina but to assess a clinical condition and is followed up with a treatment plan. Here too consent for Per Vaginal Examination should also be sought from the woman/ girl.

• Second, it is important to understand components of medical evidence. Medical evidence is:
 Trace evidence in the form of semen, spermatozoa, blood, hair, cells, dust, paint, grass, lubricant, fecal matter, bbody fluids, saliva.
 Injuries either on the body / genitals
 Presence of sexually transmitted infection that the perpetrator has passed to the survivor in the form of HIV, Hepatitis, Gonorrhea, and also unwanted pregnancy.
 It is important to understand that the possibility of finding forensic evidence decreases significantly after 96 hours after the incident. Even within these 96 hours after the incident, the extent of medical evidence found is subject to activities undertaken by the survivor in the form of bathing, urinating, gargling, defecating etc. Also possibility of finding semen evidence is based on whether perpetrator ejaculated or not. These activities should be recorded by the doctor and explained in the court when asked about lack of medical evidence .

 Most importantly the possibility of finding any forensic evidence depends on circumstances of the sexual violence and also nature of sexual violence , therefore the dependence on forensic evidence is misplaced

• Third, it is important to state that a health professional, in this case doctors, has dual responsibility – forensic and therapeutic. The therapeutic role though often ignored, has now been made mandatory by the changes in the law(Section 357C CrPC and Rule 5 of POCSO). No hospital and health provider private or public can refuse treatment to survivors of sexual violence. Refusal to provide treatment is now punishable by law (section 166 B IPC).

• Fourth, MOHFW (Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Govt of India) in April 2014 recognizes dual role of doctors therapeutic and medico legal and provides specific directions to doctors for responding to not just women and children but also transgender and other marginalized communities. It also equips doctors to understand the scope of medical evidence and steps in interpreting medical evidence. Besides the state health departments, civil society organisations must also be informed about this practice and must push for a comprehensive health care response to survivors of sexual violence.

• MOHFW (Govt of India) established a multi disciplinary committee of experts and developed gender sensitive and uniform protocol for responding to sexual violence survivors. This is the first national directive by the Union health ministry in 2014 to all states to adopt such a protocol. These guidelines have been drafted under Sec 164A of CrPC and must be adhered to uniformly across the country.

This article is based on CEHAT’s collaborative program with the MCGM hospitals in Mumbai on implementing a comprehensive health care response

Govt shows interest in Depo Provera again

HPV-Vaccine

For the past three decades women’s groups in India have been fighting against the inclusion of Depo-Provera, the injectable contraceptive into the country’s family planning programme. With signs of a renewed interest from the government on the inclusion of this drug, it is imperative that activists discuss and articulate their views on this issue of grave importance to women and public health

By Sarojini N and Priya Ranjan

After the London Summit- FP2020, a renewed interest is being witnessed, amongst funders, foundations, NGOs, UN agencies and Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW), in Depot medroxyprogesterone acetate (Depo), an injectable contraceptive.
Many international organizations/agencies/foundations are advocating that the Government of India introduce Depo-Provera (the brand name of DMPA) into the national family planning programme.

In fact, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW) had recently recommended Depo’s inclusion in the Family Planning Programme (FPP) ostensibly to provide an alternative choice to women seeking to plan their families. However, the Drugs Technical Advisory Board (DTAB), the highest decision-making body on technical matters in MOHFW, has refused to give its nod on the recommendation of the department of family welfare for the introduction of Depo-Provera in FPP and has asked the Department to “examine the matter in consultation with the leading gynaecologists of the country for examining the effects of the use of the drug (Depo Provera) under National Family Planning Programme of the Government of India”.(Pharmabiz April 16, 2015).

There are a few NGOs and other international agencies who are working on issues related to Family planning, contraception and reproductive and maternal health that are in favor of Depo. They argue that injectables and implants provide better contraceptive options particularly for the poor and powerless women to exercise control over their own bodies and lives (since the contraceptive is injectable, neither husbands, nor in-laws would come to know of the contraceptive method used by women). Those who are in favor of injectables are also of the opinion that women should have freedom to choose the kind of contraceptives they want. They believe that the idea of offering injectables as a method of contraception is to widen the choices available to women and that the risk of morbidity and mortality associated with unwanted pregnancies must always be weighed against the side effects of contraceptive methods. There are also suggestions to introduce Depo initially at district level assuming it is equipped to ensure the screening and follow-up care for this method.

On the other hand, many women’s organizations and health groups have consistently opposed the introduction of injectables and implants for many years. Women’s groups have raised concerns regarding serious health risks and adverse effects of Depo on women along with the unequipped public health system to ensure the screening and follow up at all levels. Several studies have shown that the use of Depo leads to loss of bone density in young women. In fact, the US FDA in 2004 asked Pfizer to put black box warning on Depo’s label highlighting potential medical complication associated with the drug. The findings of more recent studies conducted in Africa demonstrated that the use of Depo-Provera may also increase the acquisition risk of HIV infection.

There are also other proven measures to reduce maternal (and infant) mortality besides preventing pregnancy.

Unfortunately, there has been hardly any discussion/debate on injectables and implants in recent years. It is important to speak to women who have used and are using Depo as a method of family planning. It is available in the private market and used extensively in regions such as Jharkhand. Data from this experience needs to be compiled and analysed. From anecdotal evidence it seems that the discontinuation rate appears to be high among the users of Depo. At the same time we should clearly articulate the other alternatives, as women do need safe contraceptive methods.

Given the fact that there is a renewed attempt to introduce it in FPP, it is imperative to discuss and articulate our views on this very important woman’s and public health issue.

History of Depo-Provera
Depo-Provera (Depo) is a synthetic hormonal drug with medroxy-progesterone acetate (MPA) manufactured by Upjohn Pharmaceuticals which was later acquired by Pfizer. In 1963, it was sold in the US as a treatment for incurable, inoperable cancer of the en-dometrium (lining of the uterus).

In 1967 Upjohn decided to sell DP as a long-term contraceptive and applied to FDA (Food and Drug Administration) authorities. As per news reports, two animal trials – mandatory for FDA approval—a seven-year long beagle dog trial and a ten-year long rhesus monkey trial began. DP was granted a conditional approval for use by those who could not use other methods of contraception.

In 1973 the FDA’s Advisory Committee on Obstetrics and Gynaecology recommended the Depo-Provera drug, DMPA, for use as a contraceptive.

In 1975 the FDA convened a joint meeting of its Advisory Committees on Obstetrics and Gynecology and on Biometric and Epidemiologic Methodology. The Committees in turn jointly constituted a sub-committee task force which, after open hearings, recommended that the FDA approve Depo as a contraceptive.

Following the implication of Depo in cervical cancer, the US Congress objected and in March 1978, the FDA stayed the issuing of the license to sell DP as a contraceptive in the US. By then Upjohn had already begun selling the drug especially in third world countries with a large amount of sales going to the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) which had begun distributing it in 12 countries, the World Health Organisation and the US Agency for International Development (AID).

The irony is that even before the US authority could register the drug, it was being used extensively in third world countries, or rather being ‘tested’ on large numbers of women

Following an appeal from the management, and a groundswell of opinion against the injectable contraceptive that in July 1979 the FDA appointed a Board of Inquiry. TheUS FDA was forced to hold a public enquiry, only the second time in its history, to decide on whether the drug should be licensed. Its verdict held that there was insufficient material to show that the drug was safe. This Board convened in January 1983 and a report was issued in 1984. The report stated that there was not enough evidence to prove that the drug was safe for women as a long term contraceptive.

The US FDA did not license Depo for use as a contraceptive until 1990. This was in the context of the resurgence of anxiety about the population explosion especially in the Third World and the fact that the latter had increasingly become cautious about licensing a drug which had not been registered in the country of origin.

Depo Provera had reached India in 1974 and the Indian Council of Medical Research trials had begun testing the contraceptive. However, the trials were soon cancelled apparently due to women dropping out of the trials and so there was no trial report put out. By 1984, the drug was said to be used in a few health projects, though as per news report in the EPW “several professionals and professional bodies have been, after a long silence on the subject, issuing statements urging the government to allow Depo in the Indian market.”

The early 1980s saw women and health groups in India taking a stand against contraceptives especially in the government family planning programmes. In late 1993, India decided to issue Upjohn with the license to market DP for contraceptive use which would be manufactured and sold by Max India. Depo-Provera was approved without the mandatory Phase 3 trials. It was to be sold on prescription, individually, not through the family planning programme. Its price was reportedly, Rs 120 per dose. The company issued a statement saying that they would be doing a Post Marketing Surveillance but they would be doing this on their own without the involvement of the ICMR or the Indian drug control authorities.

In 1993, women’s groups filed a case in the Supreme Court against the introduction of injectable contraceptives into the country’s family planning programme. The court ordered a stay on the drug’s use on the grounds that there was insufficient research on its suitability for Indian conditions.

In 2000, a study conducted by SAMA Resource Group for Women and Health (Unveiled reality: a study of women’s experiences with Depo-Provera, an injectable contraceptive. SAMA, Delhi, 2000) found that in Delhi at public health centers, women were being given injectable contraceptives without informed consent which meant they were not informed of the adverse side effects of the drug.

The potential of abuse, the incomplete mandatory trials and lack of control of government agencies over pharmaceutical agencies that sell the contraceptives were some of the grave concerns of the women, health, and human rights groups. Women’s groups again met with officials from the Health Ministry in 2000 to fight against the government’s intention to incorporate the drug into its family planning programme, though allegedly it had already begun doing so in Uttar Pradesh.

In 2005, a national workshop in October 2004 organised by Parivar Seva Sanstha along with the government of lndia, UNFPA and the Packard Foundation through the Population Foundation of India. The topic at hand was the introduction of injectable contraceptives. Following this a letter signed by 62 individuals and health organisation in India wrote a letter to the then Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare – A Ramadoss. An article based on the letter appeared in the Indian Journal of Medical Ethics written by N B Sarojini of SAMA and Laxmi Murthy of Saheli with title ‘Why Women Group’s Oppose Injectable Contraceptives.

The article stated that the relaxation of Indian drug regulations and the introduction of long-acting hormonal contraceptives such as injectables (Net En and Depo Provera) and sub-dermal implants (Norplant) would cause irreversible damage to the women and their progeny’s health.

According to the article, “administration requires ruling out contra-indications and close monitoring over long periods. Such monitoring is totally absent in this country. Poor women who visit government hospitals where injectables would be offered in the family planning programme would be treated as ‘living laboratories”.

The article pointed out that a five year post-marketing surveillance study was to have been done in place of the final stage of clinical trials. However, this report has not been made public. As per the article, several factors were revealed studying the post marketing surveillance study which had failed to address several serious concerns such as the potential side-effect of bone density loss and subsequent increased risk of osteoporosis, cancer risk, assessment of return of fertility, the effect of Depo on progeny conceived immediately after stopping the use of the drug, amenorrhea, irregular bleeding, generalised weakness and lethargy, migraine headaches, pain in the abdomen and severe abdominal cramps were relegated as “non-serious” medical events by researchers. The article stated that after scrutinisng many studies which favoured the use of DP, women’s groups have found no “scientific/medical justification for the introduction of injectable contraceptives like Depo-Provera or Net-En.”

The above information about the history of Depo Provera was aggregated by the FI Team from the following articles; Why women’s groups oppose injectable contraceptives by N B Sarojini, Laxmi Murthy

http://www.issuesinmedicalethics.org/index.php/ijme/article/view/702

‘Contraceptives: Case for Public Enquiry’, EPW, April 9, 1994
‘Retreat on Depo-Provera?’ by Padma Prakash, December 8, 1984