From the diary

আহির ভৈরব এর ছবি
লিখেছেন আহির ভৈরব [অতিথি] (তারিখ: বিষ্যুদ, ১৬/০৫/২০১৩ - ১১:১৭অপরাহ্ন)
ক্যাটেগরি:

[NB: This piece is taken from a diary entry from 2010 when I was briefly interning for a charity. Sadly, the contents still remain relevant.]

I'm drafting a consultation paper for DFID (Department for International Development) on maternal mortality. Doing the research has been difficult. It has been pretty damn awful really. I've basically spent the last couple of days going through a catalogue of all the horrific atrocities inflicted on women and young girls across the world, all in the name of tradition, custom, honour, religion. There may not be much in common between the troubled Somalia and the up-and-coming-nearly-developed India, but one thing that connects the two is the fact that women and girls of both the countries continue to face violence. The forms may vary wildly from female genital mutilation to sex-selective abortion, but the victims are the same group of human beings - women.

I have read many, many, many accounts of harrowing tales of the sufferings of women and girls - babies and adolescents - over the course of my research, but the tales of Female Genital Mutilation shocked me to the core. The procedures themselves are barbaric enough, but to have that done to one by medically unqualified 'wise women' with instruments such as blades, broken glass or simply finger nails (on very small babies) is just unimaginable. And most of these procedures are entirely permanent where the girl lives with it, experiencing a whole different sort of hell at each stage of her life (periods, sexual activities, giving birth, etc). All in the name of tradition.

So what can DFID do? Try and influence (controversial term but can't think of a better one just at the moment) donee governments to introduce and implement tougher legislative measures to combat these inhumane practices? Fat lot of good that will do. I just read about the 18 year old Indian woman - 8 months pregnant - who died because her husband and in-laws wouldn't allow her to see a doctor or buy medicine when she fell ill during her final trimester. Why? Because the baby she was carrying was a girl. Sex-selective abortions being illegal in India, what other way did the husband's family have to get rid of the unwanted girl baby? And who spares a moment's thought for the life of the mother? Brides are ten-a-penny in our subcontinent!

Can the law ever achieve anything if the population doesn't want it? Forget India, let's look at the UK. It was estimated that up to 2,000 British schoolgirls from immigrant communities will face genital mutilation this Summer [2010]. The Observer reported, "[t]he practice was outlawed in Britain in 1985 and taking children out of the country to have it performed was made illegal in 2003." Has that made any difference at all? The number of cases reported in London seem to have risen since 2005 (BBC reports), yet there has been no prosecution!

No amount of legislation is ever going to work if people themselves don't change. What can DFID do? What right does DFID really have to go around trying to influence the world's customs, traditions, mindsets? Isn't that a tad paternalistic? Hawkish even? So we just leave the world's vulnerable to face torture, death. No? What then?


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