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70 Years of Independence But No Right to Live With Dignity for Women: National Commission for Women Data

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Right to live with dignity
Indian students shout slogans as they hold placards demanding stringent punishment for rapists during a protest in New Delhi, India, April, 23, 2013. VOA
Oct 3, 2017: India completes 70 years of Independence, yet women of the country fight for their ‘right to live with dignity’. Our women are still not free from the clutches of societal customs. According to the media reports (2016-17), the National Commission for Women (NCW) received maximum complaints under this category, ahead of rape or molestation.
The NCW is a statutory body appointed to safeguard women’s rights. The highest number of complaints registered by NCW were 4,373 under the ‘right to live with dignity,’ followed by dowry harassment (1,752), disrespecting the modesty of a woman (946) and violence against women (943), reported IndiaTimes.
“The NCW is founded upon the recognition that in a patriarchal society, women face a far greater degree of vulnerability and, hence, any effort to reform any law cannot go against this well-evidenced fact and reality and now argue that men are equally if not more vulnerable than women,” All India Progressive Women’s Association secretary Kavita Krishnan said, reported PTI.
[bctt tweet=”As much as Right to live is a physical right, it is equally imperative to exercise a right to live with dignity. ” username=”NewsGramdotcom”]
Many a times police personals ask women inappropriate and insensitive questions during investigations. It is startling to see that NCW department has registered 3,963 complaints of police apathy, which also top the cases of molestation or dowry.
Often women are compelled to marry against their choice. Indian women grapple with the right to choice in marriage and forceful arranged marriages that dominate consensual marriages in the Indian society. NCW received 337 complaints about women wanting the right to choose their own spouses.

In the famous conflict between Maneka Gandhi and Union of India, she challenged her impounded passport in the apex court. Maneka was issued a passport on 1976, and within a week, the same was impounded because of the public interest. A writ petition was filed with the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court of India gave a new light to Article 21 (III) by demonstrating that the right to live is not merely a physical right but encompasses the right to live with dignity as well.
As per the Article 21 of Indian Constitution:
No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to a procedure established by law.

Prepared by Naina Mishra of Newsgram. Twitter @Nainamishr94

 

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Female Genital Mutilation Unconstitutional: Michigan Judge

The AHA Foundation, however will work with Congress to try to pass a new federal law to ban the procedure nationwide.

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FILE - A T-shirt warns against female genital mutilation. Its wearer attends an event, discouraging harmful practices such as FGM, at a girls high school in Imbirikani, Kenya, April 21, 2016.Image source: VOA

Women’s rights advocates said they were shocked when a federal judge in Michigan ruled this week that a law protecting girls from genital mutilation was unconstitutional. They called his decision a serious blow to girls’ rights. Legal experts said the judge made clear that U.S. states have authority to ban the practice, though only about half do.

Here is a look at the ruling, which dismissed several charges against a doctor accused of cutting nine girls in three states as part of a religious custom, and what could happen next.

The ruling, simplified

Dr. Jumana Nagarwala was among eight people charged in federal court in Michigan in connection with the genital mutilation of nine girls from Michigan, Minnesota and Illinois between 2015 and 2017. Authorities alleged that mothers brought their girls to Nagarwala when they were roughly 7 years old for the procedure.

Female Genital Mutilation, FGM, judge
A badge reads “The power of labor against FGM” is seen on a volunteer during a conference on International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Cairo, Egypt, Feb. 6, 2018. (VOA)

Nagarwala has denied any crime was committed and said she performed a religious custom on girls from her Muslim sect, the India-based Dawoodi Bohra.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman threw out mutilation and conspiracy charges against all the defendants. He ruled that a 1996 federal law that bans female genital mutilation was unconstitutional because Congress didn’t have the power to regulate the behavior in the first place.

Heidi Kitrosser, a law professor at the University of Minnesota, explained that Congress doesn’t have unlimited authority to legislate and can only make laws that fall within powers explicitly outlined in the Constitution.

In this case, Friedman found that Congress lacked authority to regulate the practice under the Commerce Clause because the procedure is not a commercial activity. He also said Congress’ treaty powers don’t give it authority, because there was no rational relationship between treaty obligations that call for equal rights and a law banning genital mutilation.

Female Genital Mutilation, FGM, judge
Students arrive at the start of a social event advocating against harmful practices such as female genital mutilation at the Imbirikani Girls High School in Imbirikani, Kenya. VOA

But the judge clearly stated that the power to regulate female genital mutilation lies with state governments, which have primary authority in defining and enforcing criminal law.

“The court really could not have been clearer in suggesting this is something that states can do,’’ Kitrosser said.

Human rights fears

The AHA Foundation works to protect women from genital mutilation, honor violence and forced marriages. The group said the ruling was outrageous and set a precedent that cutting girls’ genitals was not a concern at the national level.

While 27 states have laws against female genital mutilation, including Minnesota and Illinois, the 23 states that don’t could become destinations for the procedure, said Amanda Parker, the foundation’s senior director. Michigan lawmakers banned the procedure after Nagarwala’s arrest.

“This is exactly how we got here. The defendants in this case had the victims shipped from Minnesota to Michigan, and the only way of holding them accountable for FGM was the federal statute,” Parker said in a statement. She said the court ruling “sends the message that the authorities are not serious about protecting girls, especially those in immigrant communities, from this form of abuse.”

Female Genital Mutilation, FGM, judgeq
KAMELI, KENYA – AUGUST 12: A Masaai villager displays the traditional blade used to circumcise young girls August 12, 2007 in Kameli, Kenya. Maasai are a pastoral group mostly clustered in the Rift Valley. They practice circumcision on both boys and girls during puberty years as a rite of passage to adulthood.

Friedman said in his ruling that states without laws specifically banning female genital mutilation can still prosecute the practice under laws that criminalize sexual battery and abuse.

“No state offers refuge to those who harm children,” he wrote.

But those abuse laws often don’t take the specific issues surrounding female genital mutilation into account, said George Zarubin, AHA’s executive director.

“This is such an underground, secretive, barbaric practice,’’ Zarubin said. “I think the judge made a major mistake.”

Is this common?

Genital mutilation, also known as female circumcision or cutting, has been condemned by the United Nations. The World Health Organization says there is no health benefit to the procedure, and it can cause numerous health problems. The practice is common in parts of Asia, Africa and the Middle East and is generally performed as a way of controlling a girl’s sexuality.

Female Genital Mutilation, FGM, judge
Amran Mahamood used to circumcise young girls in Hargeysa, Somalia, but stopped after a religious leader convinced her the rite was not required by Islamic law. VOA

It’s difficult to gauge how often genital cutting occurs in the U.S. because the practice is largely underground. A 2012 study from the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention estimated that more than 513,000 girls in the U.S. had been subjected to or were at risk of undergoing genital cutting.

What’s next?

Federal prosecutors have the option of appealing Friedman’s ruling, but it’s unclear if they will. The U.S. Attorney’s Office has not returned messages from The Associated Press this week seeking comment.

Molly Blythe, an attorney for Nagarwala, said Friedman’s decision was warranted under the law and it is “exactly what our justice system is designed to do.”

Female Genital Mutilation, FGM, judge
FILE – A counselor holds up cards used to educate women about female genital mutilation (FGM). VOA

Although the bulk of the case is now dismissed, Nagarwala and three others still face federal obstruction charges, and Nagarwala faces an additional count of conspiracy to travel with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct.

Also Read: Teens Still At Risk But FGM Rates Goes Down in Africa: Research

Blythe said Nagarwala will continue to fight the remaining charges.

If Friedman’s decision stands, the AHA Foundation will work with Congress to try to pass a new federal law to ban the procedure nationwide, Zarubin said. The foundation will also continue work to ban the practice in all 50 states.

“I think a lot of us in the community that are working to try to ban female genital mutilation in this country are beside ourselves” with this decision, he said. (VOA)