Finally Justice for Jaswinder Kaur Sidhu

Of course silence is an option, but is it moral? "From woman, man is born; within woman, man is conceived; to woman he is engaged and married. Woman becomes his friend; through woman, the future generations come. When his woman dies, he seeks another woman; to woman he is bound. So why call her bad? From her, kings are born. From woman, woman is born; without woman, there would be no one at all." ~ Guru Nanak, 15th Century Founder of Sikhism

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Honor Killings: When Bloodline and Bloodshed Intersect

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Michael Ransom, Senior CorrespondentLast Modified: 00:49 a.m. DST, 2 April 2014

Santhal Tribal Lady, Photo by Ravi PratapANDHRA PRADESH, India - Pachala Deepthi tried her best to gain the blessing of her parents before marrying her sweetheart, Anantagiri Kiran Kumar. For over two years, Deepthi's appeals fell on deaf ears. The man she intended to marry was an unacceptable choice, and P. Hari Babu and Samrajyam refused to hear otherwise. Although Kiran Kumar worked at the same technology company as Deepthi, his position in the caste system spoke volumes to the concerned parents.

After years of failed lobbying, the longtime couple decided to marry without the approval of Hari Babu and Samrajyam. Even so, friends and coworkers celebrated the inter-caste wedding with a rite that took place in their Hyderabad office building. Deepthi told her parents of the plan prior to the February 21st ceremony, but Hari Babu and Samrajyam refused to attend. What followed was a family feud no less tragic than a Shakespeare classic.

Unlike the forlorn lovers in Romeo & Juliet, Deepthi would die at the hands of her own parents. While the initial anger of her kin was marked, Deepthi was contacted by her parents with the promise to make amends and sanctify the marriage in an official ritual. To say their request was disingenuous is a critical understatement. Hari Babu and Samrajyam used this opportunity to levy supposed justice against their daughter.

Their posturing proved effective. The middle-aged couple strangled their daughter, hanging her inside the family home in Andhra Pradesh. Police received a call from the bridegroom's friend, who had suspicions about the duo's real intentions. The man stayed near Deepthi's home, and witnessed her parents leaving the property without the young woman. Authorities can thank his reconnaissance efforts for the seizure of the two murderers, who had already made inroads in their escape from the southern state. The tip brought police to the scene quickly and sparked a manhunt for the couple, who were soon captured.

Not long ago, the couple could have avoided any prosecution, depending on their local court and the caste interests that it served. But the 2011 Supreme Court decision will keep perpetrators of so-called "honor killings" running from the law. Before that decisive ruling, those who participated in such killings faced a varying degree of punishment, depending on the local government. Historically, more conservative communities administered little punishment, if any at all. The result? A mild judicial response codified time-honored notions of caste and decorum. The recent verdict from India's highest court changes that. It establishes a zero-tolerance policy for these local agendas.

Now, Hari Babu and Samrajyam could face the death penalty, which before had been used only sparingly in the world's largest democracy. The expanded application of capital punishment is perhaps the biggest legacy of the Supreme Court's resolution. Although statistics show that the possibility of death does little to discourage lethal criminals, the new precedent sends a powerful message to the people who are willing to prop up tradition through vigilante violence. Similarly, it signals the limitations of the modern caste system.

The recent murder is only one of the high profile crimes against women in India. A few weeks ago, a Bollywood cosmetic designer attacked his girlfriend, lighting her on fire and killing her in Mumbai. In the beginning of 2014, a man beheaded an elderly woman who allegedly stole timber from him. And last year in New Delhi, the fatal gang rape of a young woman stirred international outrage.

The incident vaulted India's lenient rape penalties into the global conversation. Legislators responded to the atrocity with a law increasing victim rights and implementing harsher punishments for rapists. As a result, section 376A of the Indian Penal Code includes death penalty provisions where the victim is killed. Surely this action is a step in the right direction, but these baseline clauses are far from comprehensive.

There is never one single prescription to combat a social problem, but recent studies help illuminate the breadth of this issue. As a financially-independent woman with a budding career, Deepthi was already at a greater risk of domestic abuse and sexual assault, according to the research of Abigail Weitzman. Her study shows that successful women are targeted by predators at a significantly higher rate in India. Weitzman is a graduate student and researcher at New York University.

The progressive Supreme Court decision and new anti-rape laws are a multipronged plan to combat violence against women. That said, women in India must often follow a procession of apathy on their march to justice. Between the victims who are fearful to come forward, police under-reporting, and flaws in the current legal system, the true extent of abuses remain undisclosed. Sadly, in both India and the collective global community, the same is true: the number of actual assaults is exponentially higher than the statistics that reach the newsstand.

Follow Michael on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Senior Correspondent: @MAndrewRansom

Virgin Cleansing Myth

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 13:16 PM EDT, 9 February 2012

Photo by Nicole Hinrichs - All Rights ReservedNEW DELHI, India – Yesterday we wrote about the scandal of three Indian politicians watching pornography during a parliament session. Today, Indian is once again in the news but in a slightly more positive light.

South African peace activist, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the 1984 Noble Peace Prize winner, is now chairman of ‘The Elders.” This group is comprised of prominent people of diverse backgrounds and heritage who are dedicated to addressing humanitarian issues from around the world.

Tutu, 80, is spearheading a global movement called “Girls Not Brides” which is aimed at ending child marriages. We have focused a lot of attention on this issue because this practice has such a deleterious impact on its victims. Child brides are subjected to rape, fistulas, physical and psychological abuse, and murder often condoned by the community as the right of the husband because of a lack of a dowry or as an honor killing.

Tutu told Reuters late Wednesday that "India is doing fantastically.” But intimated that the country’s growth and role as a significant world player could increase exponentially if it “enlisted the participation of 50 percent of the population,’ which means Women. The problem of marginalization, discrimination, abuse and murder of women is not unique to India.

Child marriages are most prevalent in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia, but also occurs in the United States. Though many countries have laws on the books prohibiting this practice, most of the families that engage in this type of behavior live in remote regions of the country where the police have, in their opinion, more pressing concerns than what they consider to be a ‘family matter.’

According to the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), “100 million girls will be married before the age of 18 in the coming decade. Most will be in sub-Saharan Africa countries, some of which are (Mali, DRC, Mozambique, Eritrea, Ethiopia) and the Asian Subcontinent countries, some of which are (Nepal, India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh). In Niger, for example, 74.5% of women in their early 20s were married as children. In Bangladesh, 66.2% were. Child marriage also occurs in parts of the world including the United States and the Middle East. (Source: ICRW)

According to UNICEF, an estimated 14 million girls between the ages of 15 and 19 give birth each year. Because their bodies have not fully developed they are twice as likely to die during pregnancy or childbirth as women in their 20s. Girls who marry between the ages of 10 and 14 are five times as likely to die during pregnancy or childbirth, and their infants are 60 percent more likely to die. (Source: UNICEF)

In India, 47 percent of women between the ages of 20 and 24 are married before the legal age of 18 according to the government's latest National Family Health Survey. Tutu, who is traveling in India with other Elders, including former Irish President Mary Robinson and Gro Harlem Brundtland, who was Norway's first prime minister, believes that this type of inequality is a definite impediment to increased socioeconomic development.

Tutu has been a vociferous campaigner on the issues of fighting HIV/AIDS, an epidemic that has plagued his own country, South Africa. In numerous interviews he asserts his belief that girls married off to older men, have little control over their sex lives and thus are more likely to be infected by HIV/AIDS as a consequence.

This is especially true in South Africa, where older men who lack access to proper healthcare resort to raping female babies and infant girls. This abhorrent practice is known as the Virgin Cleansing Myth “that if a man infected with HIV, AIDS, or other sexually transmitted diseases has sex with a virgin girl, he will be cured of his disease.(Source: Wikipedia)

There are many issues that must be addressed worldwide in an effort to achieve gender equality.  We don’t believe that ‘gender equality’ equates with ‘gender sameness.’ Women and men are uniquely created to complement each other and we believe this is healthy. It is only when one or the other, but in the case of this post, when a man chooses to exert control over a woman and to rob her of her natural right to self-determination, that we must stand up in one voice and denounce the perpetrators.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said it best, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

Tutu, The Elders, and NGOs are doing their part to increase global awareness of the practice of child marriages. We can support these campaigns at a grassroots level through donations, writing and blogging about this issue, or just reaching out to a woman in need in your community. To achieve gender equality at all levels of society we must do all that we can in support of the development of 50 percent of humanity. Women.

Follow Nahmias Cipher Report on Twitter
Twitter: @nahmias_report Editor-in-Chief: @ayannanahmias

Liquid Lust in India's Parliament

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 21:32 PM EDT, 8 February 2012

NEW DELHI, India - News channels have broadcast footage of three Indian politicians from a morally conservative party watching pornography during a session of state parliament. This revelation would have been noteworthy in itself, but what captured our attention was the fact that one of the men is the minister for women and child development.

The broadcast showed footage of Karnataka state Minister for Cooperation Laxman Savadi sharing a porn clip with his colleague C.C. Patil, the minister for women and child development. The phone is purported to belong to Krishna Palema, the state Minister for Ports, Science and Technology.

All three men have subsequently resigned, though they each categorically deny deliberately watching the porn. The three state politicians explained that they tendered their resignations because they did not want to cause any embarrassment for their party, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which rules the state and is in opposition at a national level.

Pornography is not harmless as some would assert. Proponents of this billion dollar industry advertise that all the actors in the industry are willing participants who are well compensated. On the revenue side, porn moguls defend their massive profits by claiming any type of restriction would infringe upon freedom of expression.

Many men and women who have become addicted to porn, in particular internet and video, have seen their lives ruined because of their unnatural attachment to unrealistic body types and contrived sexual situations. As the addiction progresses they are only able to achieve sexual gratification through the images presented in this LCD universe.

Since most men and women do not look like the people featured in these movies, it becomes difficult for those addicted to porn to develop conflict resolutions skills that are required to maintain intimate relationships in the non-LCD world. Though the industry would be loathed to admit it, pornography contributes to the objectification of the women and men who perform in these films. With regard to women, who in many societies are already marginalized or objectified, pornography can further inure men to their humanity and thus the suffering of all women in their societies.

Girls and women in largely patriarchal India face a barrage of threats including rape, dowry-related murder, forced marriage, domestic violence, honor killings and human trafficking. For these ministers to watch pornography further reinforces the rights of men over women in a country where there already is this social mindset that women are disposable commodities and are seen as transferable property.

Renuka Chowdhary, a former federal minister for women's development and a member of the Congress Party told CNN-IBC that "it really is troubling that the people who are in positions of power and have the responsibility to change things actually have the same mindset and are busy watching porn."

Communal Complicity in 'Honorable Murder'

Honor killings, domestic violence and rape does not only occur in Muslim countries, it is happening more and more in the United States, and we are each responsible for doing our part to stop this scourge. It happens in Western and Eastern cultures, and also in Christian and Islamic countries. This post does not seek to indict one faith or group of people over another, for the real culprits are the men of any nationality, culture, and faith who feel that women are chattel, and deserve to be treated with disrespect, physical and sexual violence, and even death. This behavior continues unabated because the perpetrators know that there will be no repercussions for their acts of violence.

"Awareness leads to interest, which leads to desire, that leads to action."

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