Council Orders Indian Girl to be Raped as Punishment for Her Brother's Crime

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Allyson Cartwright, Contributing JournalistLast Modified: 00:58 p.m. DST, 15 July 2014

Sarpanch Pinky Devi with her kid. Kabza Gram Panchayat, District Dungarpur, Rajasthan

SWANG GULGULIA DHOURA, India — A 13-year-old girl in a rural Indian village was condemned to be raped by the head of her village as a punishment for her older brother. The girl's brother, according to CNN, attempted to rape a married woman, and as his punishment, the woman's husband was ordered to rape the man's younger sister.

The woman that was allegedly attacked, Suguna Devi, is the daughter of the village's headman, Ghosal Pasi, The New York Times reported. She was groped by the teenage girl's older brother, Harendra Pasi, after he entered her hut in the night after drinking a "kind of rice beer." He was thwarted by the woman's husband, Nakabandi Pasi, after her screams awoke the village.

The morning after the incident, the father of the teenage girl and the alleged assaulter went to Ghosal Pasi and asked them to reach some kind of terms. He says he told the head man, "My son did wrong, and we are willing to take the punishment. if you want to impose a punishment, then beat him," but he did not receive an answer from him.

Despite his efforts, the local council that afternoon convened to discuss the punishment for the attempted rape. The local council determined that the husband raping the teenage sister of his wife's attempted rapist would be retribution, despite the girl having no involvement in the case.

The local council that ordered the rape, known as panchayats in India, act as the judicial system for rural villages. The male-dominated council are highly ranked according to Indian caste governance and thus have the authority to punish indiscriminately. They are known in India to deliver harsh, medieval sentences. CNN says that some of their rulings include forcing women to marry their rapists, some brides as young as six, and ordering gang-rapes. In a culture where a woman is a man's property and her "honor" is her value, raping woman is seen as a severe punishment for men.

After the panchayat made the ruling, the teenage girl said that the wife and her husband came to her home. According to CNN, the girl told reporters that the wife, "dragged me out of my house. She handed me over to her husband and told him to take me away to a nearby forest and rape me." And he did.

The father of the girl, Munna Pasi said that no one from the village stepped in to help save his daughter. He told reporters, "My wife wept, but nobody listened. My daughter said, 'Save me, save me,' but nobody listened. All these people became blind when he was dragging my daughter away." A neighbor, Sunita Devi, and another woman heard the girl's screams did not step in claiming, "We did not know he was going to rape her."

However, the girl was raped by the husband of Suguna Devi in an attack that lasted forty-five minutes, according to The New York Times. They say she then limped an hour's distance to the nearest police station to report it. Since then police arrested the headman Ghosal Pasi and the husband of Suguna Devi in relation to the girl's rape and the girl's brother, Harendra Pasi, in connection with the attempted rape of Suguna Devi.

The children of the headman Ghosal Pasi, Suguna Devi and her brother Gupta Kumar continue to proclaim his innocence in ordering the rape of the young girl. Gupta Kumar says, "My father did not order anything. Out of anger my brother-in-law did this thing." While Suguna Devi promises that if the police release her father and Munna Pasi, the girl's father drops the charges then, "if something will happen, people will go to the police station."

Vinod Vishwakarma, head of an elected village council involved in this area is not so convinced that this incident will discredit the panchayat system. He tells The New York Times, "There is a practice here, to sort out matters themselves." Harkening back to the neighbors who did nothing, Vishwakarma says, "I spoke to some women, they said if something like this will happen in our village again we will oppose it. But when the girl tried to seek help from people, they turned away their faces. That's the fact."

One of those who is attempting to defy the panchayat system by pressing charges against the headman Ghosal Pasi is Munna Pasi, the girl's father. He is pressured by his village to drop the charges, but he stands firm declaring, " When this was done to my family and my daughter, nobody came forward to help us. Why should I be lenient to anybody?"

With mounting hostility from the other villagers for turning in their headman, district police have also placed two armed guards outside the girl's hut and politicians have come by offering small cash gifts and foodstuffs.

Follow Allyson on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Contributing Journalist: @allysoncwright

Albanian Women Swearing Virginity to Live as Men

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KRUJE, Albania -- In Albania, where culture is dictated by patriarchy, some women are taking vows of celibacy and living their lives as men.

These “sworn virgins”, or burrneshas in Albanian, save the honor of their families by becoming a proxy patriarch. As Albania modernizes and women’s rights improve, this dying custom is still being practiced by women in small villages.

The burrneshas, translated as “he-she”, custom is one that has existed historically in Albania, dating back to the fifteenth century. In the Balkan tribal communities, they followed a Kanun law, according to The Huffington Post. They also say, Kanun law is particularly restrictive towards women as it “prohibits women from voting, driving, earning money or wearing pants.”

This law also mandated that tribal clans had to outcast any families without a male figure. Because of internal tribal warfare, however, men in the families were often killed. Women in families then faced a dilemma, how they could maintain their family’s honor. If there was a virginal female in the family, though, they could to assume the role of patriarch and become a man to save the family.

Part of the burrneshas transition to becoming a man means taking an oath of virginity. A photographer who documented burrneshas, Jill Peters, wrote on her website about these women saying, “Becoming a sworn virgin or burrnesha elevated a woman to the status of a man and granted her all the rights and privileges of the male population.” She continued, “In order to manifest the transition, such a woman cut her hair, donned male clothing and sometimes even changed her name. [… ] Most importantly of all, she took a celibacy vow to remain chaste for life.”

Even though these women are faced with the obligation of preserving their family’s honor by living a restricted life, unable to have a family of their own, they do not see it as a burden. Peters told Slate, “None of them had regrets. They’re very proud of their families, of their nephews and nieces.” Because of the sacrifice these women make, they are actually treated as respected individuals in their community.

In many cases, living as a burrnesha is liberating for Albanian women for whom marriages are arranged and lives restricted to the household. Pashe Keqi, a burrnesha, told The New York Times how she felt freer living as a man saying, “I was totally free as a man because no one knew I was a woman.” She continued, “I could go wherever I wanted to and no one would dare swear at me because I could beat them up. I was only with men. I don’t know how to do women’s talk. I am never scared.”

With modernization spreading in Albania, women are gaining more rights and with that the burrnesha tradition is diminishing. Thus, the older generations are believed to be the most authentic burrneshas because they were forced into the lifestyle—as opposed to women today that are not under as much pressure. Qamile Stema, the last burrnesha in her village told The New York Times, “We respect sworn virgins very much and consider them as men because of their great sacrifice. But there is no longer a stigma not to have a man of the house.”

Slate reports that actually only a few dozen burrneshas still practice, mostly in remote areas. As the country continues to modernize progress for women, the burrnesha tradition will become obsolete.

Follow Allyson on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Contributing Journalist: @allysoncwright

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Tom Cruise Katie Holmes Split | Scientology in the Middle

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 23:30 PM EDT, 3 July 2012

Tom Cruise & Katie Holmes, Photo by Gossip GirlsTom Cruise is an international superstar who is known for his action packed movies. Less well-known is his wife Katie Holmes, who was a burgeoning actor in her own right, but seemed to have lost her professional momentum after her marriage to Cruise.

The dissolution of their marriage if fodder for tabloids the world over, but what is most interesting is the issue of Scientology.

Called a religion by its adherents, it has a dubious history with overtones of ‘cultish’ practices, and is front and center in the melee surrounding the Holmes-Cruise split.

Suri, who is 6, or more specifically, the religious training of their daughter is a point of contention between Holmes and Cruise who is reportedly emphatic that she become an ardent follower of Scientology. The Church of Scientology’ has been clouded in controversy since its inception almost sixty-years ago.

Started by L. Ron Hubbard in Los Angeles in 1954, it was originally based upon a philosophy he developed for psycho therapeutic purposes. Subsequently, Hubbard applied for a tax-exempt status based upon the fact that he now considered his philosophy to be a bona fide religion and the IRS granted the tax-exempt status in 1957.

Though Scientology is clearly a profit driven organization operating under the guise of religion, it leverages big names like John Travolta, Kirstie Allen, Greta Van Susteren, and Tom Cruise, each fervent Scientologists who by virtue of their high profiles lend an air of credibility to what many call a cult. (View A-List Scientologist Here)

In a December 30, 1997 edition of the Wall Street Journal, Elizabeth MacDonald, Staff Reporter wrote an informative article about The Church of Scientology. Specifically, she reported on the outcome of a suit which the Scientologist brought against the IRS for questioning its tax-exempt status. They also claimed that they were being harassed and persecuted by the federal government because they were a new religion.

The federal government claimed that founder L. Ron Hubbard and his family were enriching themselves with church funds and was therefore breaking the financial rules and regulations governing tax-exempt, religious organizations.

The courts also noted that the church makes money from the sale of Scientology books and materials, as well as its "sacrament" of "auditing," in which members generally are required to pay church-trained "auditors" to hook them up to a device that is supposed to purge negative thoughts. (Source: The New York Times)

The Scientologist subsequently lost their suit and had to pay the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) $12.5 million for operating as a for-profit organization under the guise of providing altruistic spiritual guidance. This was a hefty sum at that time, but the quick payment to the IRS demonstrated the elitist nature of Scientology then as now, because the funds were easily raised by influential, well-heeled members.

“Operation Clambake,” a website dedicated to debunking Scientology as well as educating potential victims; notes that prospective members must be extremely wealthy to gain the 'full benefits' of the program. They go on to state that “The official Scientology organization is composed of a number of ‘levels’. One begins as a “preclear” and then you work your way up.

One must purchase virtually every service crucial to advancement directly from the "church" at staggering prices. "Auditing", for example, is purchased in 12½ hour blocks, costing anywhere from $750 for introductory sessions to between $8,000 & $9,000 for advanced sessions, with a conservative estimate of $380,000 for the total cost of moving up the Scientology hierarchical ladder.”  (Source: Zero Cool and Xenu)

There was public speculation at the beginning of the Holmes-Cruise relationship about what role Scientology would play in Holmes’ life and if she would adopt its precepts. She subsequently ‘converted’ and from the outside looking in, it seemed as if Holmes acquiesced to and accepted a lifestyle with which she was never really comfortable.

It is sad to see anyone, particularly a young woman with so much potential, subjugate her career and her will to that of her partner. Cruise, her juggernaut husband, clearly dominated her in every aspect of their life together, which ultimately diminished her youthfulness, joie de vivre and earning capacity.

Holmes is definitely on losing side of a bad proposition, and one can only hope that the tenacity she lacked in protecting herself will once again reassert itself when it comes to protecting her daughter.  A mother is capable of incredible sacrifice and strength in the face of adversity when it comes to protecting their children and in the case of Scientology, Suri needs all the protection she can get.

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