The Gender Beat: Woman Gram Panchayat Member Challenges ‘Husband Raj’; Two Forced Marriages Foiled

A round-up of what’s happening in the worlds of gender and sexuality

Women attending the special Gram Sabha. Kabza Gram Panchayat, District Dungarpur, Rajasthan. Credit: UN Women/Gaganjit Singh, Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Women attending the special Gram Sabha. Kabza Gram Panchayat, District Dungarpur, Rajasthan. Credit: UN Women/Gaganjit Singh, Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Woman gram panchayat member challenges ‘husband raj’

At a meeting of the Doddakurugodu gram panchayat in the Chickballapur district of Karnataka, a woman member called Brinda took strong objection to interference by the husband of another member, Pramila. The man, H.N. Prakash Reddy, disregarded Brinda’s objections, and even asked her to leave the meeting. Brinda refused to leave, and reiterated that Reddy had no business being in the meeting, since the elected representative is his wife.

A report in The Hindu quotes Brinda as saying: “We have got 50 per cent reservation after a long struggle. However, husbands and male relatives of members try to have their say, which defeats the purpose.” She added that Panchayat Development Officers must prevent such interference from taking place.

Although some states in India have ostensibly implemented 50% reservation for women at the panchayat level, reports have criticised men’s interference in panchayat positions officially held by their wives.

DCW hires acid attack survivors as coordinators

The Delhi Commission for Women has hired two acid attack survivors as assistant coordinators. Mohini Atri (33), is a counsellor, and has been hired to work at the commission’s help-desk. The other recruit is Shaheen (33), who is going to work as a part-time coordinator with the Acid Watch Cell, which deals with the treatment and rehabilitation of survivors, the disbursal of compensation due to them, and coordination with the police to keep a check on the sale of acid. The commission plans to hire one more acid attack survivor by the coming weekend.

The commission’s chairperson Swati Maliwal had said last July that the commission would hire acid attack survivors.

Brides-to-be refuse to wed

An 18-year-old woman and a 16-year-old girl, who were both being forced to get married, contacted authorities and got the wedding ceremonies cancelled on April 27.

The 16-year-old girl was being forced to get married at the Puradamma temple, near Hassan in Karnataka. However, the Department of Women and Child Development contacted her parents and told them that they would face imprisonment and a penalty if they continued with the ceremony. V. Geetha, the deputy director of the department, told The Hindu that the parents agreed to cancel the wedding at the last minute.

The 18-year-old woman, based in Arkalgud, Mysuru district, was being forced to get married to a distant relative. She was opposed to the marriage as she wanted to become a Chartered Accountant. On April 25, she contacted the police, who sent her to the Department of Women and Child Development in Arkalgud. The department intervened, and the family agreed to cancel the wedding.

More women falling ill, but they have lower access to medical treatment

Recent data from the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) indicates that more women than men are falling ill in India, and that this gender gap has increased over the years, according to a LiveMint report. “While more women than men reported being ill, there was hardly any difference between the two genders in terms of the numbers of men and women who received treatment, and this has been the case in previous years as well. However, data shows that average medical expenses on men are typically higher than for women,” says the report.

The report goes on to say that the higher hospital costs for men could be because men are able to spend more money on treatment, and also because men are likelier to be hospitalised due to trauma or injuries, which involve longer-term and more expensive treatment. However, gender discrimination cannot be ruled out as a factor affecting women’s access to healthcare. A 2014 paper which looked at rural cancer at a public tertiary health centre in Odisha found that 73% of the difference in the cumulative total expenditure on the patients was due to gender discrimination.

Al Qaeda group claims responsibility for Bangladesh LGBT murders

Ansar al-Islam, the Bangladeshi division of al Qaeda, has claimed responsibility for the murders of two LGBT rights activists associated with the magazine Roopban. The two, including 35-year-old Xulhaz Mannan, were hacked to death on April 25.

Irina Bokova, the director general of the UNESCO, has condemned the killings, and urged Bangladesh authorities “to investigate this heinous crime, to bring its perpetrators to trial and enhance the safety of all journalists so as to ensure respect for freedom of expression and freedom of information for all”.