Get subscribed to our newsletter
Get interesting updates to your email inbox.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) says the recent arrest of a Russian activist shows the authorities’ unwillingness to rein in “abusive tactics” by the state-affiliated television station NTV.
In a statement on May 24, the New York-based human rights watchdog said that NTV, owned by the Russian-state gas company Gazprom, is “notorious for harassing human rights activists and political opposition members and broadcasting smear campaigns against them.”
The statement by Hugh Williamson, the Europe and Central Asia director at HRW, came days after Roman Udot, a board member of the independent Golos (Voice) election-monitoring group, was arrested by police in Moscow.
Williamson said the move stemmed from an incident in March 2018, when NTV reporters descended on Udot at a Moscow airport and peppered the activist with questions on camera.
“During the heated exchange, Udot used aggressive language toward the reporter, calling out the station’s earlier efforts to get at him through his mother. He then filed a privacy complaint with the police,” he said.
Meanwhile, police opened a criminal case against Udot for threatening the reporter’s life. The case was suspended while Udot was on an extended trip abroad. But when he returned to Russia earlier this month, he filed a request to reopen the case to tell his account of what happened.
And on May 20, Udot was questioned, detained, and placed under house arrest by the authorities. If convicted, he faces up to two years in prison, according to HRW. NTV — and the Russian authorities — began targeting Golos in 2011 for its monitoring of the country’s parliamentary elections, Williamson said.
Six years ago, Golos became the first NGO to be fined under the controversial 2013 law requiring all NGOs that receive foreign funding and engage in political activity to register as “foreign agents.”
At the time, Golos said it was being targeted for uncovering widespread violations in the 2011 parliamentary elections and the 2012 presidential vote, which handed Vladimir Putin a third presidential term.
NTV has since broadcast films “smearing Golos staffers with misrepresenting the facts or falsely portraying them as paid agents of foreign powers,” Williamson said. “To get footage, NTV reporters have aggressively stalked Golos activists, including Udot, and their families and interfered with their privacy.”
He quoted Golos as saying that law enforcement may be sharing surveillance data with the TV station. “At least two Golos activists relocated because of their ordeal. Udot chose not to, and his ordeal continues,” Williamson added. (RFERL)
Restrictions on Freedom of Expression : Pakistani Journalists Struggle with Growing Threats from Government and Militants alike
Pakistan, November 2, 2017 : Journalists in Pakistan say they are facing increasing risks ranging from the government’s expanding control over social media to extremist threats that have spread from long-volatile regions to the streets of the capital.
The latest attack left a journalist badly beaten on a street in Islamabad. Earlier this year, security agencies picked up several bloggers from urban centers who said after their release that they had been tortured and humiliated.
Threats to reporters have long been a problem in volatile Baluchistan and the tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan, but the recent incidents have reinforced complaints by media groups that the danger is spreading to the nation’s heartland.
The victim of the beating in Islamabad was Ahmad Noorani, a senior reporter for the influential Daily News newspaper, who previously had been warned to close his Twitter account after criticizing the powerful military. The attack attracted widespread condemnation on social media, where many posts blamed Pakistan’s intelligence agencies for the attack.
Other journalists have been charged with violating the country’s vague Anti-Terrorism Act, which defines terrorism as creating “a sense of fear or insecurity in society.” Critics say it has broad potential for abuse.
Several bloggers critical of the government or the military have vanished for weeks, later saying they had been kidnapped by the intelligence services.
Popular blogger Asim Saeed was snatched by unknown men earlier this year. He told the BBC in an interview last week that he was picked up by Pakistan intelligence agencies and tortured during his detention.
Digital media rights activists, meanwhile, are warning that Pakistan is attempting to cut back on internet freedom.
“In my opinion, the government is terrifying the social media activists,” Usama Khilji, director of the internet freedom organization Bolo Bhi, told VOA’s Deewa service. “Social media is a democratic medium where people can express their thoughts without any restrictions. However, it has been observed, when people share their thoughts, the government feels insecure.”
Anwar Iqbal, a Washington-based senior journalist and correspondent for the leading English-language newspaper Daily Dawn, agreed.
“The Pakistani state feels vulnerable in the presence of growing social media and wants to stifle the discourse on topics it considers sensitive,” he said.
The state does not want media to discuss sensitive issues like relations with the U.S., China, Afghanistan and India, Iqbal said, particularly in light of President Donald Trump’s new policy for the region calling for Islamabad to crack down on terrorist safe havens.
Reports from watchdog groups
Human Rights Watch’s 2016 report said media were being deterred from reporting on or criticizing human rights violations by the security services.
“Many journalists increasingly practiced self-censorship, fearing retribution from both state security forces and militant groups. Media outlets remained under pressure to avoid reporting on or criticizing human rights violations by the military in counterterrorism operations,” the report said.
Reporters Without Borders, a global media watchdog, in its annual report this year, ranked Pakistan 139 of 180 countries on its Press Freedom Index, despite its reputation having one of the most free media environments in Asia. The report says the nation’s media “are targeted by extremist groups, Islamist organizations, and the feared intelligence agencies” — all of which are on the group’s list of “Predators of Press Freedom.”
Even when the threats come from extremist groups, journalists say, the government has done little to pursue the perpetrators.
But Interior Minister Talal Chaudry defended the government’s actions, suggesting the reporters should be doing more to protect themselves.
“We have included insurance for journalists in the journalists ‘protection bill,” he said. “Sometimes, journalists are not trained or not properly equipped, and that is why they become victims of violence. We understand journalists are sometimes victims of violence, and that is why we are bringing a comprehensive bill for working journalists in the parliament.”
Journalists: Situation worsening
But many journalists say things are getting worse. A recent cybercrime bill has become a vehicle for curbing media freedom, allowing the government to censor digital content, criminalize internet user activity and access bloggers’ data without judicial review. Media defenders say the country’s blasphemy laws also are being used to cut off public debate.
“We have laws in place for social media, but it’s not being controlled,” Religious Affairs Minister Sardar Yousef told Deewa when asked how the government can avoid the blasphemy law from being misused against social media.
Such problems are longstanding in Pakistan’s troubled southwestern Baluchistan province, where newspapers have been shut down and newsstands shuttered for more than a week amid threats from militant groups claiming the local media are too supportive of the central government.
“The resistance [militant] groups are calling on boycotting all media houses, threatening press offices and journalists,” Behram Baloch, who is now working from home, told VOA. “To address this issue, we held a meeting here at the press club. We decided to suspend our activities for a while, and press club will remain closed. Our movement is limited, and many of our colleagues have left their jobs.”
Militants from separatist groups, banned by the state, threw a hand grenade at an office of a newspaper agency in Turbat, Baluchistan, injuring eight people.
“Journalists as well as the Newspaper Editors Council received threats. As a result, our workers were forced not to leave their homes. They include press workers and hawkers. We were, thus, unable to pick up newspapers [for delivery],” said Mir Ahmed, general secretary of the Newspapers Wholesalers Association.
“Life and death are in the hands of God.” (VOA)
United Nations, October 21, 2017 : The World Health Organization (WHO) has appointed Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe as a goodwill ambassador to help tackle non-communicable diseases.
New WHO head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus praised Zimbabwe for its commitment to public health, BBC reported on Saturday.
But critics say Zimbabwe’s health care system has collapsed, with the president and many of his senior ministers going abroad for treatment.
They say that staff are often unpaid and medicines are in short supply.
Tedros, who is Ethiopian, is the first African to lead the WHO and replaced Margaret Chan, who stepped down from her 10-year post in June.
He was elected with a mandate to tackle perceived politicisation in the organisation.
The WHO head praised Zimbabwe as “a country that places universal health coverage and health promotion at the centre of its policies to provide health care to all”.
But US-based campaign group Human Rights Watch said it was an embarrassment to give the ambassador role to Mugabe given his record on human rights.
“If you look at Zimbabwe, Mugabe’s corruption, his utter mismanagement of the economy has devastated health services there,” said executive director Kenneth Roth.
“Indeed, you know, Mugabe himself travels abroad for his health care. He’s been to Singapore three times this year already. His senior officials go to South Africa for their health care.
“When you go to Zimbabwean hospitals, they lack the most basic necessities.”
The idea of hailing Mr Robert Mugabe “as any kind of example of positive contribution to health care is absolutely absurd”, he added.
President Robert Mugabe heard about the award while attending a conference held by the WHO, a UN agency, on non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Montevideo.
He told delegates how his country had adopted several strategies to combat the challenges presented by NCDs, which the WHO says kill about 40 million people a year and include cancers, respiratory diseases and diabetes.
“Zimbabwe has developed a national NCD policy, a palliative care policy, and has engaged United Nations agencies working in the country, to assist in the development of a cervical cancer prevention and control strategy,” Mugabe was reported by the state-run Zimbabwe Herald newspaper as saying.
But the President admitted that Zimbabwe was similar to other developing countries in that it was “hamstrung by a lack of adequate resources for executing programmes aimed at reducing NCDs and other health conditions afflicting the people”.
Zimbabwe’s main MDC opposition party also strongly criticised the WHO move.
“The Zimbabwe health delivery system is in a shambolic state, it is an insult,” said spokesman Obert Gutu.
“Robert Mugabe trashed our health delivery system. He and his family go outside of the country for treatment in Singapore after he allowed our public hospitals to collapse.” (IANS)
- Cases of sexual violence, including rape, fall within the larger realm of domestic violence
- Marital rape is yet to be categorized as a criminal offence in India
- According to the central government, criminalizing marital rape “may destabilize the institution of marriage”
New Delhi, September 2, 2017 : Baby works as a domestic help; she says she cannot recall her age when her parents married her off to a man who was much older to her; a man she barely knew. She didn’t anticipate her husband would demand to have intercourse on their wedding night. She was still young and not ready, but that didn’t stop him. Baby was raped by her husband on her wedding night. But marital rape means nothing to her.
Sunita irons clothes for a living. She says has been married for more years than she can remember. The duo has four kids together, but that doesn’t stop her husband from raising a hand or two on her, every once in a while. Every night, her husband would get drunk, hit her and forcefully demand to have sex, paying no heed to her resistance. Sunita has three daughters, and a son, and the husband still wants to have progenies. “I told my mother that this man has raped me multiple times. She protested, arguing that he is ‘your husband’ after all,” she said.
But did she never decide to approach the authorities?
To this, Sunita promptly replied, “I once had a sore eye after he (the husband) hit me with his shoe when I refused to have sex. I went to the local hospital and then the police. I narrated the entire scene; they were very considerate, offered me water and then asked me to go home and ‘adjust’.”
Sunita is unaware of a term called ‘marital rape’.
This is the reality of a huge part of the society in real India.
Like Baby and Sunita, women who suffer such indignities are often asked to “adjust” with perpetrators of violence because of a deep –embedded fear of what the society would say. This notion of an ‘ideal woman’ impedes women to object to illicit treatment meted out by their ‘better halves’.
The debate around the issue has become ripe once again with the Central Government stating that what “may appear to be marital rape” to a wife “may not appear so to others”. In an affidavit to the Delhi High Court, the central government took a stand against criminalizing marital rape saying that it “may destabilize the institution of marriage” and also become easy tool for harass the husbands and the in-laws.
— The Wire (@thewire_in) August 29, 2017
Rape v/s Marital Rape
Rape is defined in Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code, but with an irregularity: “Sexual intercourse or sexual acts by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under fifteen years of age, is not rape.”
While rape is addressed as perforation without a woman’s accord in its main clause, the only remedy to forced intercourse provided to ‘married’ woman is specified under Section 498-A of the IPC and the civil provisions of the Protection of Women from Domestiic Violence Act.
Following the horrific 2012 Nirbhaya rape case that brought the entire world to a standstill, the Indian media has given paramount coverage to instances of rape across the country. But even after 5 years of the gut-wrenching incident, there seems no end to this crime.
Cases of sexual violence, including rape, fall within the larger realm of domestic violence. However, rape by husbands within holy matrimony continues to remain an obscure subject in India and the exact number of cases is hard to gauge.
According to a 2015 report by National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) tracing the proximity of offenders to the victims of sexual violence, it was revealed that in 95 per cent of all rapes, the offenders were familiar to the survivors. These, presumably include acquaintances, friends, relatives and colleagues.
And what about rape committed by husbands?
In light of the debate over marital rape, a reminder: if you actually ask women, almost all the sexual violence they face is from husbands pic.twitter.com/BRVXk0cbbJ
— Rukmini S (@Rukmini) August 30, 2017
These cases continue to be an under-reported crime in India. This can be attributed to two major reasons,
- Because of the stigma associated with it
- Because of the presence of a defunct justice system
Furthermore, more often than not, these cases go missing because of several additional (and unnecessary) barriers stemming from a combination of familial and/or social power structures, shame and dependency.
Marital Rape In India
While most of the developed world has penalized marital rape, surprisingly it is yet to be categorized as an offence in India.
A United Nations’ report titled ‘Why do some men use violence against women and how can we prevent it?’ published in 2013 disclosed that nearly a quarter of 10,000 men in Asia-Pacific region, including India, admitted to have indulged in the rape of a female partner. The report traced their rationale to a deep-embedded belief that they are entitled to sex despite the consent of their partners.
The study also revealed that the majority of these instances were not reported and the perpetrators faced no legal consequences.
Why criminalising Marital Rape is important. pic.twitter.com/8xeLpzAsCL
— Hasiba (@HasibaAmin) August 29, 2017
In 2014, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), in association with International Centre for Research on Women (ICRW) brought out a report titled ‘Masculinity, Intimate Partner Violence and Son Preference in India’. Among other things, the report analyzed the average Indian male’s understanding and interpretation of the idea of ‘masculinity’ and how that molds their interactions with women.
Not surprisingly, the study revealed that a typical man in the Indian society associated the attributes ‘tough’, and ‘controlling’ with masculinity.
Segments of the present day Indian society continue to look at men as tough forces, who can (must) freely exercise their privilege to establish rule in personal relationships and above all, continue to control women.
Additionally, the study also revealed that 60 per cent of the Indian men disclosed the use of physical violence to establish authority.
In India, stiff patriarchal norms continue to tilt the gender balance firmly in the favor of men, as a result of which, women are forced to internalize male dominance in their lives.
Marital Rape in India : A Legal Perspective
Section 375 essentially distinguishes between two categories of women
- Married women
- Unmarried women
Much to the Indian society’s disappointment, the Indian legal system denies protection from rape to the married woman. This creates discrimination as the women belonging to one section are denied justice merely by virtue of being married.
But can there be two different definitions of rape? Can there be a differentiation between the rape of a married woman and the rape of an unmarried woman? Is it justified to discriminate a woman just because she is married to the man who has raped her?
The Debate Around Marital Rape In India
Despite the piquant situation, the issue raised furor when Minister of State for Home, Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhary told the Parliament that the question of criminalizing marital rape in India has no relevance “as marriage is treated as sacred here.”
Does marriage being a sacrament provide one with the legal right to rape a woman?
South Asia director at Human Rights Watch Meenakshi Ganguly had retaliated saying that it is particularly concerning when a government that claims to secure the safety of women inside and outside national territory shamelessly turn to justify a crime in the name of culture and tradition.
India can learn something from its neighbours. Nepal has laws against marital rape, so does Bhutan
— Nidhi Razdan (@Nidhi) August 29, 2017
Group director of social and economic development at the International Centre for Research on Women (ICRW) Priya Nanda asserted in an interview with a leading portal that “the reason men don’t want to criminalize marital rape is because they don’t want to give a woman the power to say no.”
In 2013, a three-member commission headed by Justice J.S. Verma suggested remedial measures to combat sexual violence in India, following the 2012 Nirbhaya rape case. One of its recommendations was the criminalization of marital rape.
The recommendation was ignored by the government as a large amount of people questioned its efficiency saying if made a crime,
- It might be misused by people
- It will be difficult to prove
- It might break up marriages
But, how fair is it to not have a law against marital rape, only because of the reason that it is ‘difficult to prove’?
In a broader understanding, it needs to be understood that the criminalization of marital rape must not be viewed as a step against men or the institution of matrimony, but as an attempt to demolish the patriarchal system that continues to clutch the Indian society.
NewsGram is a Chicago-based non-profit media organization. We depend upon support from our readers to maintain our objective reporting. Show your support by Donating to NewsGram. Donations to NewsGram are tax-exempt.
Click here- www.newsgram.com/donate