A round-up of what’s happening in the worlds of gender and sexuality
25,000 dowry-related deaths in India, says government
Around 25,000 women were killed or committed suicide because of dowry-related harassment by their in-laws between the years 2012 and 2014, Union Minister Maneka Gandhi told the Lok Sabha on April 29. Thirty thousand complaints related to dowry were registered during the same timeline, she added.
Gandhi said that Dowry Prohibition Officers have been appointed in all states except Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Mizoram and Nagaland, where the practice is not common. She said that the government regularly carries out public awareness programmes about the Dowry Prohibition Act.
Major parties shun women as candidates in Nilgiris
No recognised political party in the three constituencies of the Nilgiris – Ooty, Coonoor or Gudalur – has fielded a woman candidate for the ongoing state assembly elections in Tamil Nadu, according to a Times of India report.
However, a registered party in Coonoor called the Gadhiya Makkal Iyakkam has fielded a woman candidate.
The report says, “The Nilgiris has never elected a woman to the state assembly or Parliament except once all these years. Akkamma Devi, who represented the Nilgiris constituency in the third Lok Sabha, was the exception to this trend.”
An anonymous AIADMK party member said that her application for a ticket to contest the elections was not accepted by the party. “To be frank, there is no encouragement for women in politics,” she told Times of India.
23 TN doctors booked for sex-selective abortions, sex determination over last three years
In the last three years, 23 doctors across the state of Tamil Nadu have been booked for sex-selective abortions, sex-determination tests, and other violations of the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act.
The state medical council has reportedly debarred one Neyveli-based gynaecologist called Dr. K.K. Ramachandran after the Directorate of Medical Services lodged a complaint against the doctor. Ramachandran was caught performing sex-selective abortion. In another case, a patient had come to Dharamapuri Medical College with severe bleeding after a quack performed a medical termination of pregnancy on her. The termination was allegedly based on an illegal ultrasound by Dr. Usha of GG Ultra Sound, which allowed the parents to determine the sex of the baby.
Tamil Nadu’s sex ratio has been a cause for concern, with the number of females per thousand males falling from the already low 946 in 2011 to 943 in 2015.
China revises law to prevent sex-selective abortions
China has tightened regulations in order to prevent sex-selective abortions. Individuals and organisations who carry out pre-natal sex-determination and sex-selective abortion will be fined heavily and have their income from such work confiscated by the government. Other parties such as advertisers and pharmaceutical firms will also face heavy penalties for any participation in illegal pre-natal screening and sex-selective abortions.
The law has been revised in order to address gender imbalance in the country, which is driven by a cultural preference for sons.
Iran’s new parliament has more women than clerics
In Iran, reformist and moderate politicians who are allied with President Rouhani have won a big victory in the second round of parliamentary elections. For the first time since 2004, they won more seats than hardliners. Of them, 17 are women and they outnumber clerics by one.
“Although the 17 women, nearly all reformists, elected represent only 9% of the total it is a high for the Islamic republic and almost double the nine conservative women in the outgoing chamber. The previous high for female MPs was 14,” said an AFP report.
Pregnant women and new mothers ‘face rise in discrimination at work’ in the UK
An organisation called Citizens Advice has warned that pregnant women and new mothers are facing increasing levels of discrimination at work in the United Kingdom. According to a report in The Guardian, mothers-to-be and new mothers are facing cuts in working hours, being put on zero-hours contracts, being forced to cut short maternity leave and even being forced out of their jobs.
Although pregnancy discrimination is illegal in the country, government data published in March this year reveals that discrimination has increased significantly since 2005, with 45% women reporting that they had faced it in some form.
Why being a feminist funder means supporting sex work activism
Barbara Lotti, who works with international women’s fund Mama Cash, writes about why her organisation supports sex workers’ activism in a piece for In Plainspeak, a magazine about sexual and reproductive health in the Global South.
As Lotti writes, “Sex work remains a highly contested issue. In most places in the world, societies and laws impose horrendous stigma and abuses on sex workers. But even within human rights movements there are disputes about whether sex work should be seen as labour or as exploitation.” She cites the example of widespread backlash – including by Hollywood celebrities – against Amnesty International’s 2015 resolution to treat sex worker rights as human rights.
Breaking down the assumption that supporting sex workers’ rights means supporting human trafficking, Lotti argues, “We can support both sex worker activism and the fight against trafficking. We can pursue both an increase in sex workers’ power and agency and the dismantling of power of those who force women and others into sex work.”
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