Tuesday, January 1, 2013

78% Delhi women sexually harassed in 2012: Survey

Ninety-two out of 100 Delhi men in the 18-25-year age bracket say some or all of their friends have made passes at women at public places, while more than 78% women in the Capital have been sexually harassed in the past year, according to a survey done by Hindustan Times. The response of more than half the 146 men surveyed shows why Delhi is called the rape capital of India with 661 incidents last year till December 15. They say women invite harassment because of the way they dress and behave. And 52% said it’s okay to pass comments on women, as long as one doesn’t touch them. The survey, done by research agency MaRS exclusively for HT during the last week of 2012, covered 356 women — apart from the 146 men — who use public transport. An overwhelming majority of the respondents support the decision to set up fast-track courts to try rape cases. And asked about measures to stop sexual harassment, more than three-fourths of them say swifter punishment is the way forward. A few of Delhi’s citizens, however, think that the problem lies with the male attitude, which must be changed. While 24% men support this view, only 19% women think so — a sign of women feeling that changing male attitudes is a near-impossible task. The survey also brought out the attitudinal differences between men and women. While a majority of women disagree that the issue of sexual harassment is exaggerated, 65% of men thought that it is. But both sides agree that there is no silver bullet to solve the problem. Meera Basu, a 29-year-old resident of south Delhi, said, “You can't just put the onus on women, asking them to dress in a certain way or learn self-defence.” She said, “Short-term steps, such as more policing or removing tinted-glass windows from buses need to be combined with longer-term measures, such as improving the way cases are handled in our courts and gender-sensitising young men in schools and universities.”

India considers chemical castration for rapists

Deutsche Welle
Amidst continuing public rage against sexual crime against women, India's ruling Congress party has decided to propose chemical castration of rapists, among other strict measures. After a 23-year-old girl was raped by six men in a moving bus in Delhi last month, young men and women launched protest rallies across the country. When the Indian girl died of her injuries in a Singapore hospital two weeks after the attack, the mass outrage turned more virulent, with protesters demanding the death penalty for the six rapists and seeking stricter deterrents against growing violence against women in the country. As news of more sexual attacks against women in different parts of the country fueled the protests, the situation put the ruling Congress party under immense pressure. This week it came to light that the party was readying a draft bill to propose a tougher law to punish sexual attackers. Press Trust of India has reported that, for rape convicts, prison sentences of up to 30 years are to be proposed. The bill also includes a proposal for chemical castration of convicted rapists, in rare cases.In India it often takes years or even decades for a court to decide legal cases, including rape cases. The bill would propose to fast-track all rape cases so that they are settled within 3 months. One of the six accused in the Delhi case is possibly a juvenile, being less than 18 years old. Although he reportedly inflicted the most fatal injuries on the girl, as a juvenile, he is likely to be let off with a mild punishment. The bill would also seek to reduce the age limit of those legally called "juveniles" from 18 to 15. Committee set to report Soon after the gang-rape took place in Delhi on December 16, and the demonstrators charged that the country's law and order situation was too weak, the government set up a three-member committee seeking suggestions to tackle the growing sexual crime against women. Headed by former Chief Justice of India, J S Verma, the committee was tasked to review existing laws and make recommendations of changes in the existing anti-rape laws. The Congress is expected to submit the final draft of its bill to the committee soon. India's Women and Child Development Ministry has also held discussions with legal experts and is ready to submit the Committee this week another set of proposals that could help curb sexual crime against women. By March 25 the Committee is set to submit its recommendations to the Indian government, which is considering the possibility of an amendment of existing anti-rape laws. It is believed that the government is acting with a sense of urgency because the chairperson of India's ruling United Progressive Alliance has been very upset with the Delhi gang-rape and the following widespread protests across the country.Although she did not make any statement in the media, party insiders disclosed that Mrs Gandhi personally met legal experts seeking their views and that they spoke of chemical castration and longer imprisonment of rape convicts, among other suggestions. She also spoke to others. "She met senior party leaders and made it clear that she wanted more effective laws to deal with crime against women so that more stringent punishment could be meted out swiftly to perpetrators of such crime," said Congress general secretary Janardan Dwivedi. Opposition gives its backing The Congress' consideration on chemical castration of convicted rapists has found support from the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). "There should be maximum punishment to the rapists, death penalty or emasculation (chemical castration)," said senior BJP leader Venkiah Naidu. India's National Commission for Women chairperson Mamta Sharma said the rapists should not be given the death penalty. "They should be sent to jail for the rest of their lives. And they should also be chemically castrated so that they stay alive with a vital part of their body dead," she said. "We really seek stricter laws which would act as a deterrent so that such crimes are not repeated." 'The best way to punish a rapist' The demand of chemical castration of rapists has found a strong echo among the anti-rape protesters who have been on the street through the past fortnight."Rapists should be chemically castrated. And after the castrations their photos along with the details of their identity and offence should be published in the media," Neeta Sharma, an anti-rape protester student in Kolkata said to DW. "That's the best way to punish a rapist." Referring to the fact that out of 2,649 rape cases which were reported in last five years in Delhi, only 190 men faced conviction, Social scientist Ranjana Kumari, director of Delhi's Centre for Social Research said effective prosecution was as important as changes to sentencing. "People are extremely outraged because the raped girl has died. So, in angry emotion they are calling for the death penalty or chemical castration of the rapists. In a democratic country we should not be driven by a retributive an-eye-for-an-eye passion," said Ms Kumari. "Our emphasis should be on the increase in rate of convictions, and not just only the severity of punishment."

India's Rape: '''The power of anger '''

In a world that has recently seen governments toppled by movements that began on social media and with public protests, the angry reaction of Indians — male and female — to the culture of sexual violence in their country should not be underestimated. If rape and sexual harassment have seemed too deeply ingrained to ever change in India — where violence against women has often been shrugged off or ignored — the public’s unprecedented response to the brutal gang rape and death of a 23-year-old physiotherapy student is a sign that change will eventually come, as it must. India cannot become one of the world’s major democracies without basic rights and equality for all citizens — that includes political and justice systems that take violence against women seriously. India must listen to the growing chorus of voices calling the culture of sexual violence against women unacceptable. The reaction to the gang rape has already resulted in authorities at least appearing to take the issue seriously. Six men have been charged with murder. The victim, who has not been identified, had been waiting at a bus stop after seeing the film Life of Pi and, tired of waiting for the public bus, accepted a ride from the men who raped her. The assault, during which she was brutalized with an iron bar, lasted for hours. She died of organ failure in a Singapore hospital where she had been sent for treatment. Change will not be easy in a country in which the culture of blaming the victim is as deeply ingrained as is sexual violence. Rapes are frequently not prosecuted because officials argue the victim was asking for it or because she knew her attacker. Women who go to the police station to file a complaint are regularly urged not to, according to reports. And conviction rates stemming from rape charges have plummeted. Abhijit Mukherjee, a member of the Indian parliament and son of Indian President Pranab Mukherjee, made comments about the protests that are telling about attitudes of those in power in India. He said the protesters were not students but middle aged and caked in makeup. He used the phrase “dented and painted” — one used by car mechanics — to describe them. His subsequent apology “to all those people whose sentiments got hurt by these sentences” suggest he doesn’t fully comprehend the growing public anger at India’s failure to properly address sexual violence. Failure to see the direction in which India must move will leave him and others like him behind.

Peshawarites miss out on New Year celebrations

Youngsters in the provincial capital were depressed on the New Year’s Eve on Monday as they felt terrorism and cultural curbs had deprived them of even enjoying simple pleasures of life like having a get-together to celebrate the start of 2013. “I may go to Islamabad with friends to celebrate the New Year as there is no fun here,” Abid Ali, a teenager, told Dawn. He said students associated with religio-political parties often disrupted the New Year functions. “They are so strict that they would not let you even talk of the New Year celebrations,” he said. While some youths go to other cities to celebrate the arrival of the New Year eating out with friends, doing barbeque and holding music programmes, others looked concerned about the security situation in their own towns. Syed Bilal, a student of University of Peshawar, said he belonged to Peshawar, which had been hit hard by terrorism. “The recent killing of senior politician Bashir Bilour has left us sad. For enjoyment, peace of heart and mind is needed and we have none,” he said. The student said only those, who had peace in their lives, could celebrate the New Year night. “First, we want peace, then, we can enjoy such occasions,” he said, adding that his New Year wish was peace for the entire country. Many youths feel depressed on the New Year’s Eve, saying there is dearth of fun and activities in the provincial capital, which is often either under attack from terrorists or in mourning for victims of such attacks. The activists of religio-political groups have long been another hurdle to the New Year celebrations inside educational institutions, according to students. However, there are many, who don’t celebrate the arrival of the New Year. Hina Sikandar said she came from a conservative family, so there was no partying on the eve of the New Year. She said for her, the New Year night went like any other night. “I simply send messages to friends as the new year greetings,” she said. Some female students of University of Peshawar said they were aware of security problems and cultural curbs but would celebrate the occasion in their own ways. “We are going to decorate our classroom, take food and have fun,” said Haseena, a student of the UoP political science department. She said in a situation when girls could not go out and party, her friends had decided to celebrate the New Year in the classroom. Haseena’s class fellow, Muneeba, said like other parts of the world, Pakistani youths wanted to enjoy the new year night but local customs and security situation did not allow them, especially girls, to do so. “The situation was much better a few years ago, but now, due to security threats, parents don’t allow us to go to a restaurant,” said Muneeba. Some strict parents don’t let youths enjoy such occasions, according to Haseena.

A Dark Christmas in Balochistan

The Baloch Hal,(Courtesy: Huffington Post)
By Tarek Fatah
As the joy of Christmas dawned worldwide from Manila in the east to Managua in the west, and places in between, the spirit celebrating the birth of the Prince of Peace bypassed Pakistan. Most of the country was distracted by the frenzy of a cricket match against rival India, while its tiny Christian population was observing one of their darkest years ever. But the condition of Pakistan’s Christians on this, their “dark Christmas,” paled when compared to what was unfolding in the country’s southwest region at the mouth of the Persian Gulf. In fact, on Christmas Eve, the Pakistan Army launched a military operation in Balochistan that resulted in a massacre in the city of Mashkay. Balochistan is home to a 60-year-old, on-again, off-again armed insurrection fought by three generations of guerrillas seeking independence from Islamabad’s clutches. Deccan Walsh of the Guardian describes the conflict as “Pakistan’s secret dirty war.” While the world observed Christmas and Pakistanis were glued to their TV sets watching cricket, Pakistan troops in armoured personal carriers backed by helicopter gunships circled the town and claimed the FC (Frontier Corps) had “killed many BLF [Baloch Liberation Front] men.” Baloch politicians, bloggers and exiles, however, claimed the army action resulted in the death of 32 civilians. The Pakistan Military claims Mashkay had harboured guerrillas of the Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF). The fact is, Mashkay is the hometown of the leader of the BLF guerrillas, physician Dr. Allah Nazar, who has given up his practice and has fled to the mountains from where he and his group of mostly urban nationalist youth have staged hit-and-run attacks on army checkpoints. The Pakistan Army, frustrated by its inability to quell the rebellion that has widespread support among the civilians of Balochistan, has now resorted to tactics of the U.S. Military in Vietnam, where entire villages were destroyed if it was suspected they had given sanctuary to the Viet Minh and later the Viet Cong. In the adjoining village of Mehi, birthplace of Dr. Nazar, the army is said to have expelled the population and set fire to several mud huts. Sporadic protests against the military operation have taken place in Pakistan’s major cities, but most of the country stays unaware of the massacres taking place in Balochistan, where over 14,000 young men have died or have disappeared in the last 10 years of conflict that has seen the assassination of many political leaders while others have fled the country into self-imposed exile. The chairman of Baloch National Movement (BNM), Khalil Baloch, criticized world powers including America and Iran for supporting the Pakistani state, adding that “their aid to Pakistan is being used against Baloch nation.” The most significant reaction came from the former chief minister of Balochistan, Akhtar Mengal who also heads the Balochistan National Party (BNP) and seeks a peaceful settlement. Mengal has written to Senator John Kerry, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the next U.S. Secretary of State, asking him to invoke “The Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act of 2009,” to immediately suspend all American aid to Islamabad. Mengal is referring to the U.S. law that carries John Kerry’s name and is better known as the Kerry-Lugar Bill. It authorizes the release of $1.5-billion per year of American aid to the government of Pakistan, but with one caveat: Every six months the Secretary of State has to provide assessments of whether Pakistan’s civilian government has effective control over the country’s armed forces, including “oversight and approval of military budgets.” In the letter, former chief minister Mengal told Senator Kerry, “there is clear evidence that Pakistan’s civilian government has lost ‘effective control and oversight’ over a military that is committing widespread atrocities and war crimes inside Balochistan.” Other exiled leaders in Toronto, London, Geneva and Dubai have expressed alarm at the Christmas Day campaign that is still underway, with no coverage in any of the national or international media. Zaffar Baloch, President of the Baloch Human Rights Council (BHRC) in Canada, condemned the Pakistan Army’s operation in Mashkay, Balochistan, saying it “is part of a broader plan of action to curtail the freedom struggle of the Baloch nation… and inflict a slow-motion genocide on the Baloch people,” echoing the words of scholar Selig Harrison in Le Monde. One tweet from an exile in Dublin, Ireland summed up the frustration of the Baloch. Faiz Baloch tweeted: “Dear America, your recent $700 million aid to Pakistan will be used for death & destruction in Balochistan. Jets bombarding from last 3 days.”

Pakistan should not be linked to Tehrir Square

Federal Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira has asked the Minhaj-ul-Quran International chief not to link Pakistan to Tehrir Square.Talking to newsmen he said Tehrir Square movement was against a dictator while there is a democratic system if functioning in Pakistan where every voice of the people is being listened to, he added.Calling the army in aid of long march against the government is unconstitutional, condemnable and a dangerous thing. Meanwhile, talking to media after the birthday ceremony of the chairman of Baitul Maal Zamarrud Khan in Islamabad he said that democracy does not abolishes the basic rights of the people. Tahir-ul-Qadri too has the right to stage public gatherings and meetings but the process outlined in the constitution should be followed. Whatever suggestion over any institution Tahirul Qadri wants to offer, he should offer it to the government and it would be implemented as per the constitution and the law, he added. The government too favors electoral reforms and the present political set-up would complete its term, he said adding that if in the past the LNG contract should had be permitted there would be no CNG crisis today.

Unsolved issues loom ahead of Pakistan polls

Pakistan child measles deaths surge in 2012

Associated Press
Measles cases surged in Pakistan in 2012, and hundreds of children died from the disease, an international health body said Tuesday. In recent days Pakistani officials said they launched an immunization campaign to reach children in the worst-hit areas. But the country still struggles with a beleaguered health care system, unsanitary conditions in many regions and a lack of education about how to prevent disease. All those factors make it difficult to combat infectious diseases such as measles and polio. Also, many oppose vaccinations, suspecting they are meant to harm their people. A spokeswoman for the World Health Organization, Maryam Yunus, said that 306 children died in Pakistan of measles in 2012, compared to 64 the year before. She said the jump was most pronounced in southern Sindh province, where measles killed 210 children in 2012. She said 28 children died there in 2011. The World Health Organization did not give a reason for the increase in deaths, but a provincial health official in Sindh said that the disease hit areas where poor families did not vaccinate their children. Provincial health minister Saghir Ahmed said 100 children died in Sindh province in December alone, mostly in areas where many people were not vaccinated. He said health officials recently launched a campaign to vaccinate 2.9 million children in the affected areas of the province and urged parents to get their children vaccinated. Many Pakistanis, especially in rural areas, view vaccinations campaigns with suspicion as a Western plot to sterilize Muslims. In December, nine health officials working to immunize Pakistanis against polio were killed by militants opposed to the campaign. Pakistan is one of three countries in the world where polio is endemic. Sindh province, the area hardest hit by the measles outbreak, has also been battered by repeated floods in recent years that have damaged hospitals and clinics. Measles is an extremely infectious disease spread by coughing and sneezing or personal contact. It causes a fever, cough and a rash all over the body. Most people who contract the disease recover, but it can be fatal for malnourished children. Complications from the disease can include blindness, an infection that causes brain swelling, dehydration and diarrhea, and pneumonia. According to WHO, 139,300 people died of measles worldwide in 2010.

Gunmen in Pakistan shoot dead seven aid workers near capital

Gunmen ambushed and shot dead six Pakistani women aid workers and a male doctor on Tuesday, police said, and the charity they worked for said it suspected the attacks were linked to recent murders of polio vaccination workers. Their vehicle was raked with gunfire as they returned home from work at a children's community center run by Pakistani charity Ujala, or Light, said district police officer Abdur Rashid Khan. Their driver was seriously wounded in the attack. The shooting in Swabi district, about 75 km (45 miles) northwest of the capital of Islamabad, was the first attack on aid workers in the area. The victims worked at the center for aid agency Support With Working Solutions, whose head Javed Akhtar said they had told their other 160 staff to suspend work following the killings. The organization is involved in health education in underdeveloped parts of the country, Akhtar said. It had run a school and dispensary in Swabi and helped vaccinate children against polio, a disease that can cripple or kill within hours of infection. He suspected the shootings might be linked to a string of attacks on polio vaccinators last month. "This seemed to be part of the campaign against the polio drive by certain anti-polio elements," he said. Two weeks ago, gunmen killed nine health workers taking part in a national polio vaccination drive in a series of attacks. Most of the victims were young women earning about $2 a day. The Taliban said they did not carry out those attacks although its leaders have repeatedly denounced the vaccination program as a plot to sterilize people or spy on Muslims. Aid workers have frequently been kidnapped or killed in Pakistan, a nuclear-armed nation of 180 million that is struggling to contain a Taliban insurgency and plagued by endemic corruption and violent crime.

Pakistan: Economic overview

The Frontier Post
The national economy has made a little recovery in the first six months of the current fiscal owing largely to inflation rate going down to about 6.5 per cent, marginal expansion of the large-scale manufacturing, capital market boom, greater scope of regional trade, improved dollar inflows from the West, sustained growth in remittances and agriculture and the silent contribution made by citizens languishing in the informal sector. And if foreign exchange reserves did not further deplete, this momentum can be maintained. Although there has been a slight rise in consumer price index in December, inflation may remain the same or see a minor rise. It will, however, be manageable and the government may be able to achieve some of its goals in the current account, cash inflow and micro and macroeconomic management. Likewise, while risks are there, the Gross Domestic Product growth rate is still expected at 4.5 per cent by the end of 2012-13 against 3.7 per cent at present. However, rupee shedding value against the US dollar will continue to pose a threat to State Bank of Pakistan’s reserves and the overall banking sector’s corporate lending outflows. A sustained growth will reduce pressure on SBP which is preparing to pay the next IMF debt installment in March 2013. To a large extent, the stability of currency would also be tied to the government’s skill to manage this external factor. The economic recovery may also get a temporary spur from the possibility of huge election spending by the government, political parties and candidates for national and provincial assemblies next year. The vulnerability of the economy may persist in the next year unless the next elected government wastes no time in improving economic management through economic and administrative reforms. Because whatever the extent of economic revival in Pakistan, it is because political and democratic continuity that lent the corporate sector an assurance against any form of disruption. This pace will continue if transformation of political power is made on the basis of the popular mandate although the business has reservations about the ability of the political leadership in the country. The business in Pakistan is most likely to keep on performing because it is optimistic about a smooth change of guards after the parliamentary elections most probably in March 2013. When experts talk of economic reforms they actually mean documentation of economy, fair and just tax collecting machinery, arresting the pace of escalating cost of living and doing away with subsidies that is still as high as Rs52 billion a year. They also mean a continued supply of fuel and energy for their industries and commercial concerns. Other long term challenges include expanding investment in education and healthcare and reducing dependence on foreign donors.

North Korean leader, in rare address, seeks end to confrontation with South

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un called for an end to confrontation between the two Koreas, technically still at war in the absence of a peace treaty to end their 1950-53 conflict, in a surprise New Year speech broadcast on state media.
The address by Kim, who took over power in the reclusive state after his father, Kim Jong-il, died in 2011, appeared to take the place of the policy-setting New Year editorial published in leading state newspapers. Impoverished North Korea raised tensions in the region by launching a long-range rocket in December that it said was aimed at putting a scientific satellite in orbit, drawing international condemnation. North Korea, which considers North and South as one country, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, is banned from testing missile or nuclear technology under U.N. sanctions imposed after its 2006 and 2009 nuclear weapons tests. "An important issue in putting an end to the division of the country and achieving its reunification is to remove confrontation between the north and the south," Kim said in the address that appeared to be pre-recorded and was made at an undisclosed location. "The past records of inter-Korean relations show that confrontation between fellow countrymen leads to nothing but war." The New Year address was the first in 19 years by a North Korean leader after the death of Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-un's grandfather. Kim Jong-il rarely spoke in public and disclosed his national policy agenda in editorials in state newspapers. The two Koreas have seen tensions rise to the highest level in decades after the North bombed a Southern island in 2010 killing two civilians and two soldiers. The sinking of a South Korean navy ship earlier that year was blamed on the North but Pyongyang has denied it and accused Seoul of waging a smear campaign against its leadership. Last month, South Korea elected as president Park Geun-hye, a conservative daughter of assassinated military ruler Park Chung-hee whom Kim Il-sung had tried to kill at the height of their Cold War confrontation. Park has vowed to pursue engagement with the North and called for dialogue to build confidence but has demanded that Pyongyang abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions, something it is unlikely to do. Conspicuously absent from Kim's speech was any mention of the nuclear arms program.

New Year's Eve in Times Square

New York News | NYC Breaking News

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2013!!!!!!!!!