WGHR Announcement: “Regional workshop on the UN and National/State Human Rights Mechanisms with a special focus on Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and Special Procedures to be held in Hyderabad”-16/09/2013
WGHR is organising a regional workshop on UN and National/State Human Rights Mechanisms in Hyderabad on 21st - 22nd October 2013. The workshop is aimed at engaging with human rights activists, CSOs, human rights institutions and other stakeholders on the UN human rights mechanisms with special focus on Special Procedures and the UPR. It will draw participants working in four southern states, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Application form and the background note will be released soon on WGHR website.
“WGHR calls for repeal of AFSPA on its 55th anniversary” – 11/09/2013
WGHR released a statement appealing the Government of India to repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) 1958 on its 55th anniversary. WGHR believes that this Act has generated a feeling of alienation amongst the North Eastern Sates and Jammu and Kashmir. “Continued reluctance to repeal AFSPA, in the face of unequivocal demands from a range of credible international human right and numerous national bodies, indicates a policy paralysis in the government. Such a paralysis tragically reinforces the climate of impunity in the country amongst India’s armed forces. There is no excuse, whatsoever, for a country that claims to be a democracy and a responsible member of the United Nations to continue to have a law like AFSPA on the books” states Miloon Kothari, Convenor WGHR. Read more
“WGHR launched Tracking Implementation: A Monitoring Tool for Recommendations from the United Nations’ Universal Periodic Review for India followed by a panel discussion on the status of human rights in India.” – 23/08/2013
WGHR has been developing a monitoring tool which will track and monitor the implementation of UN's Universal Periodic Review (UPR) India. It was released in Delhi on 22nd August 2013 by Justice V. Gopal Gowda and Justice Madan B Lokur. The release was preceded by a panel discussion on status of UPR recommendations in India. The panel consisted of Shri Wajahat Habibullah, Chairperson, National Commission for Minorities; Justice V Gopal Gowda, Supreme Court of India; Shri Miloon Kothari, WGHR Convenor; Justice Madan B. Lokur, Supreme Court of India; Shri Satyabrata Pal, Member, National Human Rights Commission; and Smt Jashodhra Dasgupta, National Alliance for Maternal Health and Human Rights. Read more
For full text of the UPR monitoring tool, please visit here
WGHR Members' News and Activities
“Partners for Law in Development’s (PLD) latest publication, Piecing Together Perspectives on Witch Hunting: A Review of Literature” – 10/09/2013
Partners for Law in Development (PLD), a WGHR member, released its latest publication Piecing Together Perspectives on Witch Hunting: A Review of Literature. It expresses PLD’s review of diverse materials on witch hunting, titled ‘Piecing Together Perspectives on Witch Hunting: A review of Literature’. The review includes scholarly articles and NGO reports, and tries to examine witch hunting and witch craft as historical belief and as contemporary practice from a feminist perspective so as to find ways forward in which to respond to ongoing attacks on women in the name of witch-hunting. The review is a second publication by PLD on witch hunting, and part of a larger ongoing initiative for creating evidence and a knowledge base on the targeting of women as witches. Read more
“CHRI’s statement on two policemen alleged to be involved in Noida gang-rape” – Network for Improved Policing in South Asia (NIPSA), 4/09/2013
Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), a constituent of WGHR member, released a statement condemning the alleged involvement of two police constables in the Noida gang-rape. “There can be no hope of preventing or minimizing rape if our law enforcers are committing it”, said Maja Daruwala, director CHRI. CHRI holds that by ensuring that the two accused constables are charged with custodial rape under Section 376(2) of the Indian Penal Code, which recognizes that rape committed by officers of the State is a gross abuse of power and authority, and calls for a higher quantum of punishment will send a strong message to the citizens that this kind of violation from the protectors and enforcers of the law will not be tolerated.Read more
“Partners for Law in Development organised a training workshop on new laws around sexual violence.” – 20/08/2013
Partners for Law in Development (PLD) organised a four day residential training workshop from the 15th to the 19th of August on the three new laws around sexual violence- The Criminal Amendment Act 2013, The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act 2012, and the Sexual Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act 2013. The idea behind the workshop was to train mid level activists, practitioners, and academics to understand the new laws holistically, and to share experiences of engaging with these laws in order to strategize future interventions. The workshop was attended by 23 participants from different parts of the country. The participants were all either mid level activists, or academics that had some experience of engaging with the law in the sphere of sexual violence. There were several sessions spread over the period of four days, and each session was conducted by a resource person. The resource persons for the sessions were chosen according to their area of expertise. Reputed lawyers, academicians and activists with decades of experience in their respective fields were called to conduct the sessions as resource persons. All the participants were given resource kits beforehand.
There were several sessions over the span of four days. Feminist historian Uma Chakravarti conducted a session on the new offences defined under the Criminal Amendment Act- Stalking, Voyeurism and Forced Disrobing. Later, there was a rigorous exercise where the participants had to closely unpack the penal provisions of these new offences, flagging several questions about the ambiguities within these new laws and situations where they would or wouldn't apply. Ayesha Kidwai and Albertina explained the provisions of the Sexual Harassment at the Workplace Act. The discussions that followed made clear the problems that ground level activists face when dealing with cases of sexual violence and harassment at the workplace. Rebecca John took the participants through a thorough analysis of the Criminal Amendment Act of 2013, explaining all the new provisions and also flagging the loopholes and lacunae that may be exploited. Padma from CEHAT took a session on Medical procedures and treatment. There were several sessions on sexual violence in different contexts- disabilities, matrimonial relations, caste based atrocities, security forces and also stereotyping in rape trials. On the last day, Geeta Ramaseshan conducted the session on sexual violence and children, closely examining the new Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act.
The entire workshop was interactive, and sharing of experiences was integral to the process of understanding the new laws better. A lot of grey areas, concerns and challenges were flagged over the course of the workshop. One of the most important things that was agreed upon in the workshop was the necessity to create and sustain a process by which activists, para legals and practitioners can meet, build capacities, create and disseminate resources, and share experiences and difficulties in engaging with the law while striving for social change in the sphere of gender and sexual violence.
“CHRI welcomes the Supreme Court order which asks for Police Complaint Authorities to be set up in States and Union Territories within three months” – The Hindu, 18/07/2013
Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) welcomed Supreme Court’s order asking States and Union Territories (UT) to set up Police Complaint Authorities (PCA) to be set up within three months. The States and UTs have been disinclined towards setting up of PCAs earlier even where they have been setup, they are extremely running low on resources and manpower.
“Despite the presence of internal vigilance mechanisms, human rights commissions, the courts and now the police complaints authorities’ resistance from the police often thwarts proper investigation and honest results even as complaints abound,” said Maja Daruwala, director, CHRI. Read more
UN Human Rights News
“unicef and India conducting a survey as the foundation for addressing child labour, trafficking and malnutrition” – Daily News and Analysis (DNA), 16/08/2013
To address the issue of child labour, trafficking and malnutrition in children, available data seems to be insufficient. Therefore, in an attempt to create a strong foundation to work on these issues Unicef and India are conducting a comprehensive countrywide survey.
Unicef has also been working on rehabilitating and providing aid for the people affected by flash floods in Uttarakhand. Unicef India Representative Louis-Georges Arsenault believes that lack of awareness among the poor is a major hindrance in improving the human rights situation for children in India. "Most poor people are unaware about the welfare programmes meant for them. Once they know, they will not want to send their children to work in the fields as labour," he said. Read more
“UN had banned the deadly pesticide that caused death of 23 school children in Bihar” – Firstpost, 22/07/2013
United Nation’s health agency, WHO had banned the pesticide monocrotophos in 46 countries including India. According to an investigation conducted into the recent accident in Bihar, monocrotophos was the cause of death of 23 school children that consumed it under the Mid- Day meal scheme of Government of India. The oil that was used to cook the meal had contained this deadly poison, reports say.
In India many pesticide containers are not thrown away after use, they are widely reused as container. According to WHO, swallowing just 120 milligrams of monocrotophos – the weight of about five grains of rice – can be fatal to humans. Read more
“West Bengal has the highest number of missing women and children according to a UN report” – The Times of India, 15/07/2013
Numbers of missing women and children keep going higher and many of them go untraceable year after year. According to a recent United Nations report, West Bengal tops the list with maximum number of missing women and children. Women are usually lured into trafficking and are sent to various parts of the country, main hotspots being Delhi, Mumbai, Pune. Recent investigations have shown Ahemdabad, Bengalore and Haridwar to be the upcoming stations to where women and young girls are being trafficked.
UN office also asserts that there are illegal recruiting agencies active in North East, North Benagl, Kerala and Maharashtra which pretend to hire women and young girls as domestic help and then forcefully put them into prostitution.Read more
“India will meet Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of poverty reduction by 2015, says recent UN report” – The Economic Times, 05/07/2013
During the 2000 Millennium Summit, eight goals were decided with sub-targets consisting hunger, poverty, gender equality, health, education and environmental indicators to be achieved by 2015. A recent report by UN asserts that out of those sub-targets India is most likely to achieve the goal of poverty reduction by 2015.
"...although poverty remains widespread in India, progress has been substantial. In India, the poverty rate fell from 49 per cent in 1994 to 42 per cent in 2005 and to 33 per cent in 2010. If the current pace continues, India will meet the poverty reduction target by 2015," UN Secretary-General's Millennium Development Goals report released by UN Information Centre said. Read more
“UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food says India’s Food Security Law has global significance” – The Economic Times, 04/07/2013
The Government of India is going to implement the Food Security Law by spending Rs. 1,25,000 crore annually and supplying 62 million tonnes of rice, wheat and coarse cereals though public distribution system (PDS). United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food after meeting Food Minister K V Thomas said "I believe it is an important movement for the right to food in India. It can inspire many countries to do the same thing." Read more
News on Human Rights Issues
“Supreme Court has expressed concern over the situation of rape convictions in India” – The Hindu, 27/08/2013
A Supreme Court bench of Justices R M Lodha and Madan B. Lokur expressed concern over the situation of rape convictions in India saying “The situation is going from bad to worse”. The apex court asserts that 99 percent of the rape cases get acquitted and don’t progress towards justice, wondering what is wrong with the Indian criminal justice system. Read more
“Human Rights activists question the Tamil Nadu government for evicting slum dwellers forcefully” – The Times of India, 15/07/2013
According to the Information and Resource Centre for the Deprived Urban Communities (IRCDUC), the evictions carried out by the Tamil Nadu government were forced and inhuman, the dwellers were neither notified nor consulted before the eviction. The IRCDUC report says “The state government hasn't adopted housing or rehabilitation policies for the slum dwellers so far. Several poor residents were evicted and rehabilitated some 20-30km away from the city. They should have been given housing facilities within 3km of their previous place”. Read more
“Dalits face discrimination in drawing water from a well near Ahemdabad” – Daily Bhaskar, 13/07/2013
45 Kms away from Ahemdabad, a district Bavla Talika has been reported to discriminate against Dalits in supplying water. It has been found that the Panchayat explicitly promotes discrimination by putting up notices informing the dwellers about the different timings for Dalits and higher castes to draw water from the well. “We have put up the notice to streamline water distribution as we have separate pipelines for areas where people of different castes reside,” Pratapsinh Dodia, the husband of sarpanch Nimisha Dodia was quoted saying. Read more
“A human rights group’s report urges the Government of India to put an end to human rights violations occuring due to the POSCO project” – Conutercurrents.org, 10/07/2013
A report by a human rights group, Network for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR-Net) based in New York urges the Government of India to stop the POSCO project and so to stop the human rights violations that it has been responsible for. Around 22,000 persons will be affected by the project by being displaced forcefully.
“Should the project move forward, entire villages will be decimated, livelihoods will be destroyed, and families will be rendered homeless, all in the name of ‘development,’” said Miloon Kothari, former UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing and Executive Director of the Housing and Land Rights Network and convenor of Working Group on Human Rights in India and the UN (WGHR). “Forced evictions present serious threats to human rights. The impact on those affected can often be characterized as a human tragedy.” Read more