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Posts Tagged ‘India’

You know how some news stories grab attention and make sense on some level, yet grate away for a while leaving enough of a raw spot to require examination?

No, I’m not talking about spending any time pondering what that fuckwit Camping is thinking as he has shifted doomsday to October since he’s clearly hoping to clear a few more million before the world or his credibility finally comes to an end. (And if you happen to know anyone stupid enough to even think about sending him some dosh, have them send it to me instead. I’ll get the word out just fine, thankyouverymuch, and I won’t publicized the idiocy of handing a load of cash over, so no worries about something like this showing up in the media:

“I’ve been mocked and scoffed and cursed at and I’ve been through a lot with this lighted sign on top of my car,” said Hopkins, 52, a former television producer who lives in Great River, New York. “I was doing what I’ve been instructed to do through the Bible, but now I’ve been stymied. It’s like getting slapped in the face.”)

What a moron … but not today’s topic …

The story that got me was this from the BBC: India’s Unwanted Girls.

India’s 2011 census shows a serious decline in the number of girls under the age of seven – activists fear eight million female foetuses may have been aborted in the past decade.

Horrible. Just horrible. But this is not a story about abortion. It’s not even a story about the illegal practice of prenatal determining of the sex of a fetus with the intention of aborting girls. It’s not about the consequences the imbalance of girls-to-boys when it becomes women-to-men, how few brides there will be, how many guys will be left high and dry and how that will impact future generations.

Nope. This is about the simple fact that in 2011 the female gender is disregarded to the point of being considered in negative value to the point of genocide, or “gendercide” as some choose to call it.

It’s not new, as Gendercide Watch makes very clear:

In many cultures, government permitted, if not encouraged, the killing of handicapped or female infants or otherwise unwanted children. In the Greece of 200 B.C., for example, the murder of female infants was so common that among 6,000 families living in Delphi no more than 1 percent had two daughters. Among 79 families, nearly as many had one child as two. Among all there were only 28 daughters to 118 sons. … But classical Greece was not unusual. In eighty-four societies spanning the Renaissance to our time, “defective” children have been killed in one-third of them. In India, for example, because of Hindu beliefs and the rigid caste system, young girls were murdered as a matter of course. When demographic statistics were first collected in the nineteenth century, it was discovered that in “some villages, no girl babies were found at all; in a total of thirty others, there were 343 boys to 54 girls. … [I]n Bombay, the number of girls alive in 1834 was 603.”

So neither new, nor improved.

The BBC’s take focuses around the availability of ultrasound technology and subsequent abortion and quotes someone who apparently didn’t study up on this history much …

Until 30 years ago, he says, India’s sex ratio was “reasonable”. Then in 1974, Delhi’s prestigious All India Institute of Medical Sciences came out with a study which said sex-determination tests were a boon for Indian women.

It said they no longer needed to produce endless children to have the right number of sons, and it encouraged the determination and elimination of female foetuses as an effective tool of population control.

A 1994 law outlawed sex-selective abortion, but the government has “been forced to admit its strategy has failed to put an end to female feticide.”

Well, yeah … Since laws against murder did squat to stop female infanticide, why would anyone expect this to work?

As illustrated well in my friend Rihaan Patel’s award-winning short film “The Death of Daughters” girls born does not lead to girl living. (Yeah, that’s a plug. He’s young and just getting started, so I thought I’d give him a mention.)

From Gendercide Watch:

Lakshmi already had one daughter, so when she gave birth to a second girl, she killed her. For the three days of her second child’s short life, Lakshmi admits, she refused to nurse her. To silence the infant’s famished cries, the impoverished village woman squeezed the milky sap from an oleander shrub, mixed it with castor oil, and forced the poisonous potion down the newborn’s throat. The baby bled from the nose, then died soon afterward. Female neighbors buried her in a small hole near Lakshmi’s square thatched hut of sunbaked mud. They sympathized with Lakshmi, and in the same circumstances, some would probably have done what she did. For despite the risk of execution by hanging and about 16 months of a much-ballyhooed government scheme to assist families with daughters, in some hamlets of … Tamil Nadu, murdering girls is still sometimes believed to be a wiser course than raising them. “A daughter is always liabilities. How can I bring up a second?” Lakshmi, 28, answered firmly when asked by a visitor how she could have taken her own child’s life eight years ago. “Instead of her suffering the way I do, I thought it was better to get rid of her.”

Another cultural quirk like female genital mutilation, preventing women from participating in life through bans on voting, owning property, driving, getting an education, leaving the house?

Can there be any doubt over why it’s okay for many to kill baby girls when the world has yet to come to any meaningful consensus on their worth? When the simple possession of a penis bestows esteem … no matter how stupid, useless, debauched, evil, profane or disgusting the bearer … and societies encourage this view, the issue of allowing more girls into the world can seem a silly waste of resources at best, and a dangerous game of numbers to some.

Zero tolerance for such attitudes is the only answer; international courts where offenders, both individuals and offending nations are called to account as well as local jurisdictions with the will and the power to enforce laws demanding equal treatment, equal rights. Poor countries with stone age perspective and well-entrenched customs should be sanctioned out of their socks, taken to task, forced in all possible ways to abandon the old traditions and move the female portions of their populations into the mainstream of everything.

It will happen. Not in my lifetime, for sure, but it will, and maybe even before the rapture … rupture … whatevahhh. If it does take that long, watch out, because God is going to be really pissed off at how her girls have been treated.

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Victoria's "Gift"

On yet another day that sees the news filled with horror stories and images of destruction, I hunt for a bit of diversion from the real-life world that shakes and screams and hurts and hates, something to let my head go in directions necessary to make progress on present work. In other words, to lift the clouds of gloom and feel the sunshine with little nagging guilt over just how bloody easy I have it at the moment.

History can provide quite the perspective, so finding this story on Queen Victoria’s much younger man has caused quite the reroute in thinking on world reports through the mirror of time and more than a little sweetness.

Mr Karim was just 24 when he arrived in England from Agra to wait at table during Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee in 1887 – four years after Mr Brown’s death. He was given to her as a “gift from India”.

Within a year, the young Muslim was established as a powerful figure in court, becoming the queen’s teacher – or munshi – and instructing her in Urdu and Indian affairs.

Mr Karim was to have a profound influence on Queen Victoria’s life – like Mr Brown becoming one of her closest confidants – but unlike him, was promoted well beyond servant status.

“In letters to him over the years between his arrival in the UK and her death in 1901, the queen signed letters to him as ‘your loving mother’ and ‘your closest friend’,” author Shrabani Basu told the BBC.

“On some occasions, she even signed off her letters with a flurry of kisses – a highly unusual thing to do at that time.

“It was unquestionably a passionate relationship – a relationship which I think operated on many different layers in addition to the mother-and-son ties between a young Indian man and a woman who at the time was over 60 years old.”

Ah, the advantages being Empress brings a girl, heh? (And just in case anyone is wondering what to get me for my birthday in July, such a “gift from India” would not be scorned!)

Apparently, Karim was not on the Top Ten list with the rest of the clan, as he was given the royal boot out the palace doors within just a few hours of Victoria’s funeral, but although attempts were made to wipe the castle clean of all reference to him he had spent ten years with the woman, and he did keep diaries.

Those diaries are on their way to becoming a book, and a fascinating read it’s bound to be. Not only do we have that cougar thing going, but the fact that the Supreme Governor of the Church of England was taking daily advice from a Muslim back in the days India was still part of the Empire is very interesting.

No doubt, Victoria was one smart monarchial cookie, as under Karim’s tutelage she learned to speak, read and write both Urdu and Hindi, and I enjoy imagining the range and depth of conversations they conducted as they shared days, traveled the world and passed time in her remote highland cottage in Scotland.

He was, of course, not the first younger man the “Widow of Windsor” had a thing for, the Scotsman, John Brown, having been her “personal servant” from shortly after Prince Albert’s death until the time of his.

Victoria’s children and ministers resented the high regard she had for Brown, and, inevitably, stories circulated that there was something improper about their relationship. The Queen’s daughters joked that Brown was “Mama’s Lover,” while Edward Stanley, 15th Earl of Derby wrote in his diary that Brown and Victoria slept in adjoining rooms “contrary to etiquette and even decency.”

Well, what the hell? If you’re the Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and Empress of India, you’re going to pay attention to what others have to say about where your boyfriend beds down? I don’t think so … at least not in the days before tabloids and Twitter.

I’d never considered Queen Victoria a woman I’d relate well to, but seems I’ve found some commoner ground, and although I know it’s not only more than 100 years too late, but also something she would never have registered on her radar, I’d still like to say:
YOU ROCK, GIRL!

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