What is Socialization? – Girl Found Living with Monkeys.

In India, police rescued a girl initially believed to have been living in the forest with monkeys; officials now say she is disabled and was abandoned by her family.

On 6 April 2017, the Times of India reported that police in the state of Uttar Pradesh in northern India had rescued an 8-year-old girl found living with a colony of monkeys in the Katerniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary, not far from the Nepal border:

Cops in Uttar Pradesh have found a girl who can neither speak nor behave like normal human beings. The 8-year-old girl was rescued by the police in Bahraich from a troop of monkeys.

The girl was spotted by sub-inspector Suresh Yadav, who was on a routine patrol in Motipur range of Katarniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary.

When he tried to rescue the girl, who seemed to be comfortable with the apes, they screeched at him and so did the girl. However, the cops after great efforts managed to rescue the girl and got her admitted to the district hospital.

No one seems to know how the girl wound up in the forest by herself. According to the doctors treating her, she exhibited some violent, animal-like behavior when she was first hospitalized, was afraid of human beings, and seemed unable to speak or understand human speech.

A slightly different version of events recounted by the South Asian news agency ANI stated that the girl was 10 years old when found and had been under the care of the hospital since February 2017, when police originally discovered her:

The City Hospital doctors, who have been treating a ten year-old girl found in the Katarniaghat forest by the Uttar Pradesh Police, on Thursday said the girl was showing improvement in health.

“The girl is better and healthy and has started showing improvement,” Chief Medical Officer, D.K. Singh told ANI.

A ten year-old girl was found amongst animals by the police personnel in Uttar Pradesh’s Bahraich district two months back

The girl was seen amongst the animals of the forest and was completely unfamiliar with human language.

Associated Press correspondent Biswajeet Banerjee reported that the child — nicknamed “Mowgli” by the press (after the feral child in Rudyard Kipling’s 1894 novel The Jungle Book) — was discovered in January, not February:

The girl, believed to be 10 to 12 years old, was unable to speak, was wearing no clothes and was emaciated when she discovered in January and taken to a hospital in Bahraich, a town in Uttar Pradesh state in northern India.

She behaved like an animal, running on her arms and legs and eating food off the floor with her mouth, said D.K. Singh, chief medical superintendent of the government-run hospital.

After treatment, she has begun walking normally and eating with her hands.

“She is still not able to speak, but understands whatever you tell her and even smiles,” Singh said.

There are videos of the girl showing a child who seems very uncomfortable with her surroundings and exhibits some behaviors that might be characterized as somewhat “ape-like,” but it’s unclear at what stage of her hospitalization they were recorded. Though she doesn’t speak in the videos, she does interact with the adults around her and is seen performing some normal tasks like drinking a glass of water:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZeGejL9HQlk

https://youtu.be/3v_eg04GF94

https://youtu.be/ELjwKZvM1L0

Police superintendent Dinesh Tripathi, who said he visits the patient regularly, told the New Indian Express it appeared she had lived with the monkeys “since birth,” though that is pure speculation on his part.

Reports of “feral children” discovered living among animals in the wild are not unprecedented in the historical record, the Washington Post has reported. Some have even been documented:

Numerous stories of feral children like the young girl exist both in legend and in documented cases in history. Some recent cases include children who, like this girl, were raised by primates. A British woman named Marina Chapman claimed to have lived with monkeys from the ages of 4 to 9 in the Colombian jungle and later wrote a book about it, although some questioned the veracity of the tale. A disabled Nigerian boy named Bello was found living with chimpanzees for 18 months in 1996 after he had been abandoned by his family.

Six-year-old John Ssebunya was found living with green vervet monkeys in the Ugandan jungle in 1991. He is believed to have run away from home when he was 3 years old after seeing his father murder his mother. He was placed in an orphanage and was later adopted. He learned to speak, became a member of the Pearl of Africa children’s choir and participated in the Special Olympics, later moving into a home of his own.

Ssebunya’s story was featured in a number of documentaries, including a three-part Animal Planet series, “Raised Wild,” in which anthropologist and broadcaster Mary-Ann Ochota investigated three cases of feral children, in Uganda, the Ukraine and Fiji.

On 8 April 2017, yet another version of the “Mowgli girl” story emerged that shed doubt on the claim that the girl found in Uttar Pradesh was herself a feral child, however. The British newspaper The Guardian reported that a district forestry officer had come forward to dispute some of the previously published details of the case. He painted a picture instead of a child who may have been abandoned by her family because she was disabled:

JP Singh said the girl was actually found on a roadside near the forest, not deep in the wilderness. And though there were monkeys in her vicinity, his rangers “never found this girl living with monkeys,” he said.

“I think the family members of this girl had been aware that she is not able to speak, and they may have abandoned her near the forest road,” he said. “If she was living with monkeys it would have been for a few days only, not for a long time.

“It is clear from first time view, if you see the girl, that she is only eight or nine years old, but her facial expressions show that she is disabled, not only mentally but also physically,” he said.

The forest is closely monitored by rangers and CCTV, and it was unlikely she could have survived in the wilderness for long without being spotted, he added.

The hospital’s chief medical officer, D.K. Singh, agreed that no one could really say precisely when she had been abandoned. “In India, people do not prefer a female child and she is mentally not sound,” he told the Guardian.

The chief medical officer of the district of Bahraich, Ankur Lal, said it was unlikely she had been raised in the forest, much less by monkeys. He believes the symptoms of her disabilities were mistaken for evidence that she had been living without human contact in the jungle.

At last report, the girl was being transferred to a children’s home in the city of Lucknow for further recovery.

 

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Tighter leash for NGO’s under FCRA

The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010, is nothing more than a tool to keep ‘errant’ civil society organisations on a tight leash. An autonomous, self-regulatory agency for NGOs is the need of the hour

 

In early November, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs rejected the licence renewal applications, under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010 (FCRA), of 25 non-governmental organisations (NGO). That means these NGOs can no longer receive funds from foreign donors. Many of the affected organisations were rights-based advocacy groups, with some involved in human rights work.

 

The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government has defended its action by claiming that these organisations had violated FCRA norms by engaging in activities detrimental to public interest. But its decision has drawn criticism from different quarters.

 

Civil society members have issued statements condemning the move, charging the government with “abuse of legal procedures”. Opposition MPs from six political parties have written to the Prime Minister questioning the government’s motives, and termed it “a decision motivated by the politics of vendetta, victimisation and an effort to bully them into silence”. The National Human Rights Commission has issued a notice to the Home Ministry, observing, “Prima facie it appears FCRA licence non-renewal is neither legal nor objective and thereby impinging on the rights of the human rights defenders in access to funding, including foreign funding.”

 

Despite the censure, the NDA regime has shown no signs of relenting. This mass cancellation of FCRA licences is not the first time that the legislation has been used thus. In 2015, the Home Ministry had cancelled the FCRA licences of 10,000 organisations. Prominent international funding agency Ford Foundation, the environmentalist group Greenpeace, and human rights advocacy group Lawyers Collective have all been targets of FCRA-linked curbs on their activity, suggesting a larger pattern in the way the state has used this law.

 

The origins of the FCRA

 

The original Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act was enacted in 1976 by the Indira Gandhi-led government during the Emergency. It prohibits electoral candidates, political parties, judges, MPs and even cartoonists from accepting foreign contributions. As the inclusion of ‘cartoonists’ under its ambit suggests, the intent was to clamp down on political dissent.

 

The ostensible justification given for the law was to curb foreign interference in domestic politics. This was the Cold War era, when both the Soviets and the Americans meddled in the internal affairs of post-colonial nations to secure their strategic interests. Amid suspicions of the ubiquitous ‘foreign hand’ stoking domestic turbulence, the FCRA was aimed at preventing political parties from accepting contributions from foreign sources.

 

As the years passed, India seemed to overcome its suspicion of the ‘foreign hand’. It embraced foreign funding by opening up the economy in 1991. The Indian state had no problem accepting contributions from foreign donors such as the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund. With the state wooing foreign investment, Indian businesses, too, helped themselves to foreign funds. And so did our political parties, despite the FCRA, 1976, expressly prohibiting them from accepting money from ‘foreign sources’.

 

Both the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress were pulled up by the Delhi High Court in 2014 for violating the FCRA by accepting contributions from the Indian subsidiaries of the London-based multinational, Vedanta. It ordered the government and the Election Commission to take action against both the parties. To no one’s surprise, the BJP-led NDA government did not take action against the BJP. Nor did it do so against the Congress, which, as the leading Opposition party, did not think it appropriate to protest this flagrant flouting of a judicial directive.

 

Instead, earlier this year, the government quietly introduced a clause in the Finance Bill that amended the relevant section of the FCRA, 2010, so that what was hitherto a “foreign company” now became an Indian company. This amendment was introduced with retrospective effect — a brazen attempt to legitimise the FCRA violations of the two parties. This amendment has also opened the doors for all political parties to accept funding from foreign companies, so long as it is channelled through an Indian subsidiary.

 

It may be pertinent to point out here that it was the Congress, under the stewardship of Manmohan Singh, that replaced the original FCRA, 1976, with a more draconian version in 2010. But why the new law? To answer that question, we need to consider the differences between the two legislations.

 

The new FCRA

 

Human rights activist Venkatesh Nayak draws attention to three changes that render the new Act more stringent than the old one. Firstly, FCRA registration under the earlier law was permanent, but under the new one, it expired after five years, and had to be renewed afresh. This instantly hands the state a whip with which to bring errant organisations to heel.

 

One may recall that earlier this year, 11,319 NGOs lost their FCRA licences without the government having to either examine their records or suspend their registrations individually — their licences simply expired as the deadline for renewal passed.

 

Second, the new law put a restriction (50 per cent) on the proportion of foreign funds that could be used for administrative expenses, thereby allowing the government to control how a civil society organisation (CSO) spends its money.

 

The third and most important distinction is that while the 1976 law was primarily aimed at political parties, the new law set the stage for shifting the focus to “organisations of a political nature”. The FCRA Rules, 2011, framed by the United Progressive Alliance government, has served the NDA well as a manual on how to target inconvenient NGOs, especially those working on governance accountability. It helpfully enumerates the kind of organisation that could be targeted under the FCRA as “an organisation of a political nature”.

 

The list is revealing: trade unions, students’ unions, workers’ unions, youth forums, women’s wing of a political party, farmers’ organisations, youth organisations based on caste, community, religion, language and “any organisation… which habitually engages itself in or employs common methods of political action like ‘bandh’ or ‘hartal’, ‘rasta roko’, ‘rail roko’ or ‘jail bharo’ in support of public causes”.

 

Institutionalising double standards

 

Put simply, a political class that has no qualms taking money from foreign sources, that amended the FCRA to let itself off the hook for past violations, that opened the doors for all political parties to accept foreign funding, that paved the way for Indian businesses to access foreign capital, is now anxious to prevent CSOs from accessing foreign funds because some of them question its policies in a democratic battle to protect constitutional rights and entitlements.

 

Last April, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association undertook a legal analysis of the FCRA, 2010. He submitted a note to the Indian government which stated unambiguously that the FCRA provisions and rules “are not in conformity with international law, principles and standards”.

 

The UN Special Rapporteur’s argument was fairly straightforward. The right to freedom of association is incorporated under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which India is a party. Access to resources, particularly foreign funding, is part of the right to freedom of association. While this is not an absolute right and is subject to restrictions, those have to be precise, and defined in a way that “would enable a CSO to know in advance whether its activities could reasonably be construed to be in violation of the Act”.

 

The report says that restrictions in the name of “public interest” and “economic interest” as invoked under the FCRA rules fail the test of “legitimate restrictions”. The terms are too vague and give the state excessive discretionary powers to apply the provision in an arbitrary manner. Besides, given that the right to freedom of association is part of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (article 20), a violation of this right also constitutes a human rights violation.

 

Does all this mean that the FCRA should be repealed? If yes, how then do we monitor the foreign funding of NGOs?

 

Of course, NGO funding needs to be regulated. One cannot deny that corrupt NGOs exist, or that unscrupulous NGOs that receive foreign funds may serve as conduits for money laundering. But there are better ways to address these concerns than an FCRA that institutes an ‘Inspector Raj’ for the NGO sector.

 

In fact, a seven-member task force was set up way back in 2009 to create a national-level self-regulatory agency, the National Accreditation Council of India (NACI), that would monitor and accredit CSOs. It was to be an independent, statutory body along the lines of the Bar Council. The task force submitted its report to the Planning Commission in September 2010. It was never heard of again. Instead, what we got in September 2010 was a more aggressive FCRA. Perhaps it is time to repeal the FCRA and revive the idea of an autonomous, self-regulatory agency for CSOs.

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Guidelines for NGOs: Mandatory for them to register with Niti Aayog, Centre tells SC

The Centre’s proposed guidelines to regulate working of NGOs would make it mandatory for such organisations to register themselves with Niti Aayog – a government think tank that provides inputs for public policy.

The NDA government – which has already tightened the noose around some NGOs – submitted the draft guidelines to the Supreme Court on Wednesday. A bench headed by Chief Justice JS Khehar is hearing a PIL regarding non action against NGOs, receiving government funds, for not filing their audits before the authority concerned.

“The existing portal at Niti Aayog (NGO-Darpan) shall be strengthened and aligned with accredition-like functions which should also provide a snapshot of the NGO with regard to its ongoing and past work, particularly with respect to public and foreign funds so as to facilitate grant making authorities on the bonafides,” the affidavit said.

As per the new guidelines, an NGO will be blacklisted if it provides false and misleading information to the Centre. Additional solicitor general Tushar Mehta submitted before the bench that the draft guidelines for NGOs will be finalised in two weeks.

The court turned to senior counsel Rakesh Dwivedi, who is assisting the bench in the case, and asked him to have a look at the guidelines to give his response. Petitioner and advocate ML Sharma was also asked to do the same.

Under the stringent guidelines NGOs would be provided a unique ID and subjected to the Income Tax Act and Foreign Contribution Regulations act. They would be granted accreditation after their internal governance and ethical standards are evaluated.

Past record of NGOs too would be scrutinized before they are given accreditation. A three-tier scrutiny would be in place to evaluate utilization of funds and the process would also include quality of work done by the NGOs.

It would be mandatory for the NGOs to execute a bond to refund the amount with 10% interest if they fail to execute the project for which the grant is allocated. Misappropriation of funds would invite both criminal and civil cases.

The government took to framing new guidelines after the top court on the last hearing pulled it up for not having a regulatory mechanism to monitor the funds and their utilization by the NGOs, societies and voluntary organizations. Asking the government to take criminal and civil action against them, the bench had prodded the government to frame new guidelines.

Centre was asked to submit an action taken report before the court on the proceedings initiated against the defaulting NGOs, which the government did not do on Wednesday. It might place the report on the next hearing scheduled after two weeks.

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New guidelines for regulating NGOs formulated: Centre tells SC

The Centre on Wednesday told the Supreme Court that it has framed guidelines for regulating the activity, registration and grants to over 32 lakh voluntary organisations (VOs)/NGOs in the country.

A bench of Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justice D Y Chandrachud was informed by Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta that in compliance with the apex court order, a high-level committee under the chairmanship of S Vijaykumar, ex-secretary, the Ministry of Rural Development has framed the guidelines/rules for accredition of VOs/NGOs.


The apex court took the affidavit of the Centre detailing the guidelines on record and asked Mehta to serve the copy to petitioner advocate M L Sharma and amicus curiae Rakesh Dwivedi, who is assisting the court in the matter.

Under the new guidelines, Niti Aayog has been appointed as the nodal agency for the purpose of registration and accredition of VOs/NGOs seeking funding from the Government of India.

The aayog has been also tasked with maintaining of data- base systems to manage and disseminate information relating to NGOs/VOs.

“The existing portal at Niti Aayog (NGO-Darpan) shall be strengthened and aligned with accredition-like functions which should also provide a snapshot of the NGO with regard to its ongoing and past work, particularly with respect to public and foreign funds so as to facilitate grant making authorities on the bonafides,” the affidavit said.

It said that all VOs/NGOs, aspiring to be funded by the government, shall register themselves in NGO-Darpan through online process which would enable them to get a unique ID.

“The registration system should facilitate the seamless operation of the IT Act and FCRA with respect to NGOs without the need for cumbersome and intrusive processes, which create mutual distrust and scope for misuse,” it said.

Regarding accredition of NGOs and VOs, the affidavit said a process of evaluating, consistency of compliance to statutory requirements and of the registration including accounts and audit requirements will be in place.

“In future, all funds to NGOs/VOs should be released through the public fund management system (PFMS),” it said, adding that a three-tier monitoring system shall be instituted uniformly for the central government and ministries.

The formulated guidelines stipulate a tough monitoring mechanism by which the grantee institutions shall upload photographs in support of the performances and should geo-tag the assets, if applicable.

“The periodical progress reports from grantee institutions should be incorporated in the NGO scheme workflow on the website of the ministry, with the grantee institution making data entry under a login and password. The progress report in a processed form shall also be available in the public domain preferably with a GIS interface,” the affidavit said.

It said that fund-based accounting may be introduced for earmarked/designated funds by the VOs/NGOs and all grants received from the governments should be separately accounted for.

On January 10, the apex court had pulled up the government for failing to evolve a regulatory mechanism to monitor thousands of crore worth of funds of over 32 lakh NGOs, societies and voluntary organisations.

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India has banned all forms of disposable plastic in its capital

Thirty-two percent of the 78 million tons of plastic packaging we produce annually flows into our oceans. That’s the equivalent of one garbage truck of plastic every minute.

According to the India Times, India is responsible for an astonishing 60% of the plastic that is dumped in the world’s oceans every year. The country has become so concerned with its waste problem that the National Green Tribunal has introduced a ban on disposable plastic in the capital city. It is now no longer permitted to use plastic bags, chai cups and cutlery in Delhi.

But that isn’t the only issue that led to the ban. It was introduced as a result of complaints about the illegal mass-burning of plastic and other waste at three local rubbish dumps, which has been blamed for causing air pollution.

Hotspot for pollution

India is one of the danger spots for pollution, according to WHO figures. The yellow, orange, red and purple patches on this map shows where air quality breaches international limits.

red.cgi

Another study estimates that the fine particles generated from commercial and residential energy use, including waste burning, contribute the most to pollution-associated premature deaths globally, especially in India.

According to Greenpeace, India is leading the charge against plastic. While many places around the world already ban plastic bags, India’s bans are all-encompassing.

In Karnataka, a state in the south-west of the country, no wholesale dealer, retailer or trader can now use or sell plastic carrier bags, plastic plates, plastic cups, plastic spoons or plastic wrap, says Greenpeace.

Last month, the UN Environment Programme launched #Cleanseas, a major global campaign to stop plastic ending up in our oceans. Ten countries have already joined. They are: Belgium, Costa Rica, France, Grenada, Indonesia, Norway, Panama, Saint Lucia, Sierra Leone and Uruguay.

 

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Muslim women win right to wear full body suits in UK amateur swimming competitions

The Amateur Swimming Association of UK has relaxed its swimsuit regulations allowing women to wear loose-fitting full body outfits. This move comes after a request from the Muslim Women’s Sports Foundation.

Previously, full body suits were prohibited because of their ability to decrease friction in the water and giving swimmers an advantage.

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The new guidance will only apply to amateur competitions in England. Photographs that have been published by the governing body provide examples of the type of suits that would be permissible.

The guidance states, “Swimmers wishing to swim in such a suit shall present the suit to the event referee for inspection prior to their swim.

Once the referee has been informed of a swimmer wishing to wear a suit, as described above, there is no requirement for the referee to question the swimmer further, the ASA swimming management group do not want athletes being asked why they wish to wear the suit.”

Muslim groups have applauded the move, saying it would encourage more Muslim women to participate in the sport.

Rimla Akhtar, from the Muslim Women’s Sport Foundation, said, “Participation in sport amongst Muslim women is increasing at a rapid pace. It is imperative that governing bodies adapt and tailor their offerings to suit the changing landscape of sport, including those who access their sport.

“The MWSF is glad to have requested a review of competition laws in relation to full body suits by the ASA and are extremely pleased at the outcome.

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“We thank the ASA for their leadership in this matter. We look forward to continuing to work together to ensure that this ruling is also adopted at the elite level both nationally and internationally.”

Chris Bostock, chairperson of the ASA said in a statement, “This is a very positive step forward for competitive swimming in England and one that we hope will encourage many more people to take part.”

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Cap on marriage expenses, loud DJ music, Fireworks proposed by MP, J&K shows the way.

A bill introduced by an MP from Bihar Ranjeet Ranjan, wife of MP Pappu Yadav, wants those spending above Rs 5 lakh to contribute towards marriages of poor girls.

Jammu and Kashmir has banned big fat weddings in the State by limiting number of guests to be invited and number of dishes to be cooked at marriage functions.

“It should be ensured that there is no wastage of any food items uncooked or cooked during the wedding functions. If there are some surplus food items (cooked), it should not be thrown into dustbins but provided to deserving people and old age homes after properly preserving and packing,” reads the order.

It stated that taking into consideration the complaints of people, it has been decided by the government to ban fat weddings in the State.

“The number of guests to be invited for the marriage of daughter (barat) and marriage of son should be restricted to a maximum of 500 and 400 people respectively. Only 100 people should be invited to attend like engagements and other small functions,” reads the official order.

As per the order, the number of vegetable and non-vegetable dishes to be cooked in marriage and other functions should be restricted to a maximum of seven each besides two stalls of sweets or fruits.

In Kashmir, wazwan, the traditional Kashmiri cuisine, is served during the marriage functions.  The wazwan is prepared by traditional local chefs, known as ‘Wazas’, who specialize in cooking the mostly mutton-based feast.

The government has said the order to restrict number of dishes and number of guests in marriage and other functions will come into effect in the State from April 1 this year.

It further stated that there shall be complete ban on sending dry fruits and sweet packets, etc with invitation cards by any person to relatives, friends, guests, invitees, etc.

The government has also ordered ban on use of amplifiers, loudspeakers and firecrackers during the private and official functions.

“There shall be complete ban on use of amplifiers, loud speakers, fire crackers in any government or private social functions,” reads the order adding “It will save the general public from the inconvenience of noise pollution and air pollution caused by the various gadgets.”

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Sex Education and Adolescence- Boys should understand that when a girl says ‘no’ it means no

In a bid to reach out to 26 crore adolescents in the country on health
issues, the Ministry has decided to involve 1.65 lakh peer educators called
“Saathiya”.

THE LEGALITY of homosexuality may still be an open question for the
judiciary and the Government is yet to change the law but resource material
prepared by the Health Ministry for adolescent peer educators has taken a
step in the sensitive direction.

It tells young people that it is all right to “feel attraction” for the
opposite sex or the same sex during adolescence. The crucial aspects of all
such relationships, it says, are consent and respect.

“Yes, adolescents frequently fall in love. They can feel attraction for a
friend or any individual of the same or opposite sex. It is normal to have
special feelings for someone. It is important for adolescents to understand
that such relationships are based on mutual consent, trust, transparency
and respect. It is alright to talk about such feelings to the person for
whom you have them but always in a respectful manner… Boys should
understand that when a girl says ‘no’ it means no,” reads the resource
material in Hindi that is going to be circulated to states as part of the
adolescent peer-education plan.

In a bid to reach out to 26 crore adolescents in the country on health
issues, the Ministry has decided to involve 1.65 lakh peer educators called
“Saathiya”. The resource kit prepared for these educators that was unveiled
by Health Secretary C K Mishra on Monday not only treats the issue of
same-sex attraction with unusual maturity but also talks about
contraception and gender-based violence in great detail.

The peer educators are being trained under the Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya
Karyakram (RKSK). “Despite the expansion of media, there are many
unanswered questions in the minds of young people in villages. Saathiya
will address these questions. We are also talking about behavioural change
and a change in thinking,” Mishra said.

The resource material prepared in partnership with the United Nations
Population Fund also dispels gender stereotypes in the section on mental
health where it says it is fine for boys to cry and categorisations such as
“sissy” and “tomboy” are inappropriate.

“A boy can cry to give vent to his feelings. He can also be soft-spoken or
shy. Being rude and insensitive is not a sign of masculinity. It is alright
for boys to like things like cooking and designing that are normally
associated with girls; adopting the role of the other gender does not mean
that he is not male. The same applies for girls who talk too much or like
to dress like boys or play games like boys. It is wrong to label such
people as ‘sissy’ or ‘tomboy’.”

The section also deals with addiction, smoking and alcohol laying down
their short and long-term harmful effects and also deals with conflict
resolution.

The section on reproductive health has information not just about HIV and
other sexually transmitted diseases but also exhaustive information on
contraceptive options (pills, condoms, IUCDs etc) for both boys and girls,
listing masturbation as one of the topmost options for practising “safe
sex”. It also has information on abortion and the need for parental or
consent of guardian for girls younger than 18 years who want to undergo
abortion.

The peer educators who will be trained by the health department with the
help of the resource material given out by the Centre will do voluntary
work but will be entitled to a “non-monetary” payment of Rs 50 per month,
in the form of magazine subscriptions or mobile recharge or any other means
as decided by the state.

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State of women with mental challenges

At 49, her face still retains a girlishness but when she speaks, it’s the adult who talks—the words are measured and every thought is completed before the next one is uttered.

She talks of misery with the same smile on her face as when she talks about the joy that the birth of her first child brought. She is painfully thin and unusually calm for someone whose patient-file records her first visit to the hospital as aggressive.

She is sitting at the Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences (IHBAS) in Delhi, where she has come for one of her regular follow-ups a year after she was discharged from the psychiatric ward. Ask her what had happened, her answer is clear: when you lose control of your life, when nothing seems to work out and there is no hope of any change, your mind starts failing and you lose control of it.

“That is what happened to me and that is what everyone calls becoming pagal (mad),” she says.

She is now clinically stable and asymptomatic, but to her neighbours in east Delhi where she moved two decades ago from Bihar, she is still the woman who was admitted in a pagal-khaana—literally, the madhouse—not once but twice. They keep a safe distance from her.

This is what it means for her: she is not just any person with mental illness, she is a woman with a mental illness, making her doubly vulnerable in a country which is still grappling with the idea of accepting women as equal to men.

This low status means that relatives and police often find it easy to put women in mental institutions without their consent, according to a report put out by non-profit outfit Human Rights Watch on the plight of mentally ill and disabled women in India.

The 104-page study exposes involuntary admissions and arbitrary detentions of women in these facilities, overcrowding and a lack of hygiene, inadequate access to healthcare, forced treatment—including electroconvulsive therapy—as well as physical, verbal and sexual violence.

Last August, the Rajya Sabha passed the Mental Health Care Bill 2013, which provides for protection and promotion of rights of persons with mental illness during the delivery of healthcare in institutions and in the community. Following a Supreme Court request in 1997, the National Human Rights Commission has been regularly inspecting and reviewing the activities of all mental health institutions since 1999.

India also came up with a National Mental Health Policy in 2014 which aims to reduce the treatment gap by providing universal access to mental healthcare through increased funding and human resources.

On paper, everything is in place.

Cosmetic changes

From the time when patients were called lunatics and insane to now, when they are termed mentally ill, the understanding of mental health issues in India appears to have definitely changed. “Lunatic asylums” or pagal-khaanas are called institutions for the mentally ill now.

But as Bhargavi Davar, a mental health activist says, while India has tried to modernize its laws, not much has changed on the ground other than the description of these patients.

“Mental health law has always been penal, depriving people of their liberty and it is still the same. The core of the laws is still involuntary commitment. It is so easy to get away with institutionalizing someone in this country, or labelling them mentally ill,” she says.

In a patriarchal society, women are easily incarcerated for a variety of reasons.

Madness certificates issued by mental health professionals are used by husbands or in-laws to divorce or throw out wives from their matrimonial homes, according to a 2009 research paper published in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry by J.K. Trivedi, a psychiatrist and president of the Indian Psychiatric Society in 2004.

But Saswati Chakraborti, a psychiatric social worker at IHBAS, rejects such criticism. “We work as a team. When a patient comes, he or she is assessed by a multi-disciplinary team, including a psychiatrist, a psychologist and a social worker. Only if the person is unconscious or harming self or others, do we admit them,” she says.

Linked to the deep and widespread inequities marking the socio-economic status of men and women in India, the exposure to and treatment of specific mental health risks are gendered as well. Their illness is not taken seriously and help is sought late and infrequently.

Psychiatric epidemiological data cites a ratio of one woman for every three men attending public health psychiatric outpatients’ clinics in urban India. When a man is mentally ill, since he is conventionally the main earner, his well-being is considered important, something needing immediate treatment.

A woman, whose contribution goes unrecognized, becomes a burden when she is mentally ill because she is thought of as being incapable of the role society thrusts on her—of the primary caregiver. As a result, the mentally ill woman is socially ostracized and abandoned. She is sent back to her parents’ house. If her mother is alive, things can work out. If not, she becomes a burden, an additional mouth to feed. Social disadvantages worsen the biological vulnerability of women.

Rectangular rooms

In these rectangular rooms along the edges of a spacious compound at IHBAS, there are 20 women each. It was in one of these four rooms that the 49-year-old mentioned at the beginning of the story was admitted the second time–when she imagined a Hindu goddess was talking to her. She became aggressive and bit anyone who slept on the same cot as her in their house.

The room is full of women, mostly with close cropped hair to prevent lice; some talk to themselves, others stare out into the distance. There are beds in these tidy rooms, and the corridors are clean but that’s not always the case in other such institutions.

In August last year, pictures from inside a Kolkata-based mental health rights organization hit the social media. The patients—both men and women—were seen sleeping on dirty floors and using filthy toilets. Many of them had not bathed or shaved for months. They had stopped wearing clothes because they were infested with bugs and lice.

There are 60 million Indians who suffer from mental disorders. At the end of 2005, nearly 10-20 million (1-2% of the overall population) people suffered from severe mental disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and nearly 50 million (about 5% of the population) suffered from common mental disorders like depression and anxiety, the government said in Parliament in May 2016.

And yet, India spends 0.06% of its health budget on mental healthcare—less than even countries like Bangladesh (0.44%).

A study of more than 11,000 patients from two hospitals in south India found that depression and somatoform and dissociative disorders were more prevalent in women (Vindhya U., Kiranmayi A. and Vijayalakshmi V., 2001), and that five groups of women were most affected by mental disorders—married women, women in the reproductive age group, unskilled labourers, women with little education and women who were “principally housewives”.

The 49-year-old is a victim of domestic violence and her husband is an alcoholic. She believes her sister-in-law used black magic on her and was the reason both for her husband’s alcoholism and her illness. In the summer of 2011, her abdomen was distended, she was enervated, could not sleep and constantly felt irritated.

Like several women with mental illness, her symptoms were not taken seriously by her family even when the husband kept calling her pagal. A few months and several visits to a tantrik baba (a witch-doctor) later, her son took her to a doctor. It was a physician and she was treated for abdominal pain.

“Abdominal heaviness, fatigue, lethargy, low energy, feeling irritated, sometimes loose, sometimes constipated motions are all symptoms of depression. People don’t realize that most of the nerve supplies are in the brain, followed by the gut. Since they are not aware, patients go to physicians, who in turn aren’t well trained to deal with such cases. Up to 30% of those who go to physicians in public healthcare units have underlying depression. Before visiting a psychiatrist, they visit at least two-three physicians,” says Nand Kumar, associate professor in the department of psychiatry at AIIMS.

Planned legislation

The Mental Health Bill, which awaits clearance in the Lok Sabha, requires every insurance company to provide medical insurance for mentally ill persons on the same basis as that given for physical illnesses.

In a country where more than 80% of the population does not have health insurance, this step seems like a distant dream. To top that, there are 3,800 psychiatrists, 898 clinical psychologists, 850 psychiatric social workers and 1,500 psychiatric nurses nationwide. This means there are three psychiatrists per million people, which according to data from the World Health Organization, is 18 times fewer than the Commonwealth (a group of 52 nations, including India) norm of 5.6 psychiatrists per 100,000 people.

Many argue that the present mental healthcare system in the country, with its emphasis on psychiatric services, is inappropriate to meet the mental health needs of women, who usually want counselling and support structures.

“Most of our programmes focus on increasing the numbers of psychologists and psychiatrists but unless we create resources within the society, and unless we increase the awareness, we wouldn’t make any progress in dealing with mental health,” says AIIMS’s Kumar.

No locks

To fill the treatment gap in psychiatry, some rural outreach programmes are trying to create an environment in the community, where people can be more open about their brain health challenges.

“We need places especially in urbanized spaces where we don’t have the colonial lock-ups. We need humanized social supporting systems. A comprehensive healthcare is required,” says health activist Davar, who is also managing director and founder of Bapu Trust, a non-profit organization dedicated to research in the area of mental health.

For the mentally ill, among other problems, housing too is a concern.

In a family of five in an urban setting in Tamil Nadu, the father, who passed away last year, suffered from clinical depression. So did one of the daughters. The symptoms became worse and she was sent to a mental institution. She has two other sisters—one a widow, the other is divorced. The latter’s husband divorced her because her father and a sister have mental illness. All the three daughters were living with their mother. But they have to move homes frequently because the landlords say so. The mother prefers to have her clinically depressed daughter in the mental health institution because that way she can take care of the rest of the family.

This isn’t an isolated incident. Many clients’ families have to pay extra rent because according to the landlords, the presence of a mentally ill patient means a lot of (financial) risk. This is more prevalent in semi-urban and urban places,” says Preetha Krishnadas, assistant director of Urban Mental Health Programme at the Banyan, a non-profit organization for people with mental illness in Chennai.

To create more housing options for the mentally ill, the Banyan offers cluster group homes, shared housing and group homes.

Cluster group homes are semi-institutional settings, six-seven cottages in closed communities, with one health worker. For those with chronic illnesses, there is shared housing. It offers more independent living—a house for five-six patients, along with a healthcare assistant, located within a community and with no locks. The idea is to facilitate social inclusion. On the other hand, group homes are for people who are functionally independent. They will be earning on their own but sharing a house. In urban settings, the Banyan pays the rent. In rural, it is the women themselves who pay.

Surprisingly, there is less stigma around mental illness among the poor or lower middle classes. They seek help sooner and talk much more openly.

“When they are poor, nothing is affecting their self esteem. Among the upper middle class, stigma is high. They don’t want to talk openly. They fear losing their job, their house, support system, dignity. There is always fear of losing something,” says Krishnadas.

When the 49-year-old was discharged, she begged the hospital to not let her go back. She felt safe inside the mental health institution.

“I kept thinking of how my husband behaved with me, beat me up, how he came home everyday drunk. I thought it is better to be with people who know I have some illness, and since I am better now, I can serve them. At least I will be doing someone some good,” she says.

In the psychiatric department of IHBAS, there are rows and rows of people—both men and women—waiting to be heard. Social worker Chakraborti says the trend has changed recently—just four- five years back. “The crowd shows how people are overcoming this stigma. There is some movement, maybe not as much as there should be, but things are changing for the good,”she adds.

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China ‘eliminating civil society’ by targeting human rights activists.

Report details use of torture by Chinese security agencies – including beatings, stress positions and sleep deprivation – to force activists to confess ‘crimes’

China’s human rights situation further deteriorated last year as police systematically tortured activists and forcibly disappeared government critics while state TV continued to broadcast forced confessions, a new report shows.

A creeping security state also attempted to codify much of its existing behaviour on paper, giving the police legal authority to criminalise a host of NGOs deemed politically sensitive by the authorities, according to the report by the Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD).

“The Chinese government seems intent on eliminating civil society through a combination of new legislation restricting the funding and operations of NGOs, and the criminalisation of human rights activities as a so-called threat to national security,” Frances Eve, a researcher at CHRD, told the Guardian.

“What stands out is the almost institutionalised use of torture to force defenders to confess that their legitimate and peaceful human rights work is somehow a ‘crime’.”

Since coming to power in 2012, Xi Jinping has overseen a sweeping crackdown on civil society. In 2015, police targeted almost 250 rights lawyers and activists in what some have dubbed a “war on law”, and the effects of that campaign continued to be felt throughout last year.

Reports of torture while in detention in 2016 were rampant, with methods including beatings, attacks by fellow inmates on the orders of prison guards, stress positions, deprivation of food, water and sleep, inhumane conditions and deprivation of medical treatment.

In some cases, human rights activists were prevented from receiving medical care even once they were released.

Huang Yan, who was detained in November 2015, was suffering from ovarian cancer and diabetes. Police confiscated her diabetes medication, and despite an exam done at a detention facility in April 2016 showing the cancer had spread, she was not treated and was denied medical bail.

When she was finally released, Huang was scheduled to undergo surgery last November to treat her cancer, but the authorities pressured the hospital and the team of surgeons declined to treat her.

Torture also took more overt forms. Last year reports also emerged that rights lawyer Xie Yang was subject to beatings and stress positions in detention , with interrogators warning him: “We’ll torture you to death just like an ant”.

In November 2016, Jiang Tianyong, a respected Christian attorney, disappeared while about to board a train and police waited weeks to confirm he had been detained. Jiang’s whereabouts are still a mystery nearly three months later.

In a rare strongly-worded statement, the European Union called for his immediate release along with several other lawyers.

China also continued the practice of airing confessions on state television, a move that is reminiscent of internal Communist party political purges.

In one of the most prominent cases, Swedish NGO worker Peter Dahlin was paraded on the national broadcaster after three weeks in detention, declaring: “I have violated Chinese law through my activities here. I have caused harm to the Chinese government. I have hurt the feelings of the Chinese people.”

The confessions air before detainees ever see the inside of a courtroom, and in Dahlin’s case he was promptly deported.

For those activists that do go to trial, in at least 15 cases last year police attempted to pressure activists into accepting government-appointed lawyers. In cases where state-appointed lawyers represented human rights activists, little defence was mounted and the accused pleaded guilty and promised not to appeal their cases.

The report also outlined two laws passed in 2016 that are likely to curb civil society: legislation regulating charitable giving and a law on foreign NGOs. The charity law, while not explicitly requiring all NGOs to register with the government, makes it difficult for unregistered organisations to raise funds domestically.

The foreign NGO regulations require overseas groups that give money to Chinese organisations to be registered with the police.

“Together, these laws will hamper the development of Chinese civil society by restricting their funding,” the CHRD report said.

“There are no more ‘grey areas’,” an unnamed human rights activist said in the report. “To advocate for human rights in China today, you must be willing to accept the reality that the government views your work as ‘illegal’.

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