Saturday December 15, 2018
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Nirbhaya revisited as juvenile set to walk free

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Come December 20, the lone juvenile convict in the Nirbhaya rape and murder case that shook the nation’s collective conscience will walk free unless the Delhi high court acts on the government’s plea to extend his stay in an observation home till all the aspects, including mental health and post-release rehabilitation plans, are considered by the authorities.

“His (juvenile) stay in observation home needs to be extended….,” Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Sanjay Jain told the court on Monday, claiming that several mandatory requirements were missing from post-release rehabilitation plan of the juvenile convict.

The Centre’s move also comes in the wake of a secret Intelligence Bureau assessment that claimed that the juvenile might have been radicalized in the observation home. Nirbhaya (name changed) was brutally assaulted by six persons, including the juvenile, in a moving bus in south Delhi. She later succumbed to her injuries in a Singapore hospital triggering protests across the country demanding stringent action against the culprits and measures to ensure women’s safety.

So, what has changed since that fateful night?

According to the data released by National Crimes Records Bureau (NCRB), as many as 36735 rapes were reported in 2014 while in 2013 the number was 33707. Total crimes against women in 2014 were 337922 while in 2013 the number was 309546, a significant rise that should suffice to give us sleepless nights.

According to the government, an increase of more than 50 per cent was reported in cognisable cases involving juveniles in last ten years.

“As per data collected from states and union territories, an increase of 50.6 per cent – from 25,601 cases in 2005 to 38,586 cases in 2014 – in cases under total cognizable crimes registered against juvenile in conflict with law,” MoS for home Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhary said in the reply to a written question in Lok Sabha on Tuesday.

The steps taken by Centre and state governments seem to fall way short of what is actually required in view of the rising number of incidents. On December 11 this year, a seven-year-old girl was allegedly raped by a 16-year-old boy in Delhi’s Tigri area, showing how the national capital still remains unsafe for women and children. Last year an executive was raped by a Uber driver in his cab who even threatened to shove an iron rod inside her, invoking troubling memories of brutal violence inflicted on Nirbhaya.

Therefore, the measures like setting up of a Nirbhaya Fund or the stringent ‘Nirbhaya Act’ taken to deal with the menace would not suffice. The need of the hour is to change the mindset of the men in our patriarchal society. When leaders like Mulayam Singh Yadav try to justify rape by saying that ‘boys will be boys’ or when Chhattisgarh’s home minister Ramsewak Paikra says that no one commits rape intentionally as it happens by mistake, we need to look within and realize there is something rotten in the society.

The comments like these by our politicians show how deeply embedded patriarchy is in our society and how tough will it be to cleanse the mindsets that blame women for sexual assaults, questioning them for dressing ‘inappropriately’ or for being out late in the night. Alas, women have long been considered as second-class citizens. In ancient India, a Hindu widow would be compelled to immolate herself on her husband’s pyre under an obsolete funeral system, namely Sati. This savagery shockingly continued for several hundred years.

Thus, critical reforms in the education system are required so as to bring about gender sensitization in the children and the process must continue for next three to four decades. At least two generations must be educated in this manner so as to ensure respect and safety for the other half of the humanity. The children educated thus would have an inherent respect for women.

Ironically, India is a land where women have always been worshipped as goddesses. Tomorrow as the nation observes the third anniversary of Nirbhaya rape case, we ought to remember Mahatma Gandhi’s words:

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

We must change ourselves to ensure that another Nirbhaya doesn’t even befall this country.

(Image: Quint)

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Trump Can’t Deny Birth Control Coverage: U.S. Court

The case became more complicated after the Trump administration last month issued new birth control coverage rules that are set to supersede those at issue in the lawsuit before the 9th Circuit.

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A one-month dosage of hormonal birth control pills is displayed in Sacramento, Calif. VOA

A divided U.S. appeals court Thursday blocked rules by the Trump administration that allowed more employers to opt out of providing women with no-cost birth control.

The ruling, however, may be short lived because the administration has adopted new rules on contraceptive coverage that are set to take effect next month and will likely prompt renewed legal challenges.

Thursday’s ruling by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals concerned changes to birth control coverage requirements under President Barack Obama’s health care law that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued in October 2017.

States were likely to succeed on their claim that those changes were made without required notice and public comment, the appeals court panel said in a 2-1 decision.

USA, birth control
A man stands outside the main door of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals building in San Francisco. VOA

The majority upheld a preliminary injunction against the rules issued by U.S. District Judge Haywood Gilliam last year. It, however, limited the scope of the injunction, applying it only to the five states in the lawsuit and not the entire country.

Another federal judge also blocked the rules, and her nationwide injunction remains in place.

An email to the Justice Department seeking comment was not immediately returned.

Obama’s health care law required most companies to cover birth control at no additional cost, though it included exemptions for religious organizations. The new policy allowed more categories of employers, including publicly traded companies, to opt out of providing free contraception to women by claiming religious objections. It also allowed any company that is not publicly traded to deny coverage on moral grounds.

The Department of Justice said in court documents that the rules were about protecting a small group of “sincere religious and moral objectors” from having to violate their beliefs. The changes were favored by social conservatives who are staunch supporters of President Donald Trump.

Reproductive Rights, abortion, women, birth control
A community health worker holds up contraceptives during a lecture on family planning at a reproductive health clinic run by an NGO in Tondo city, metro Manila. VOA

California filed a lawsuit to block the changes that was joined by Delaware, Maryland, New York and Virginia.

“Today’s decision is an important step to protect a woman’s right to access cost-free birth control and make independent decisions about her own reproductive health care,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement.

‘Economic harm’

The states argued that the changes could result in millions of women losing free birth control services, forcing them to seek contraceptive care through state-run programs or programs that the states had to reimburse.

The states show with “reasonable probability” that the new rules will lead women to lose employer-sponsored contraceptive coverage, “which will then result in economic harm to the states,” 9th Circuit Judge J. Clifford Wallace, a nominee of Republican President Richard Nixon, wrote for the majority.

Reproductive Rights, abortion, women, birth control
Newer Contraception Tries to Engage Men. VOA

In a dissent, 9th Circuit Judge Andrew Kleinfeld said the economic harm to the states was “self-inflicted” because they chose to provide contraceptive coverage to women. The states, therefore, did not have the authority to bring the lawsuit, said Kleinfeld, a nominee of Republican President George H.W. Bush.

Also Read: To Diversify The Industry, Apple Pledges To Train More Women

The case became more complicated after the Trump administration last month issued new birth control coverage rules that are set to supersede those at issue in the lawsuit before the 9th Circuit. Under the new rules, large companies whose stock is sold to investors won’t be able to opt out of providing contraceptive coverage.

Wallace said the new rules did not make the case before the 9th Circuit moot because they are not set to take effect until January. (VOA)