OPINION

International Violence against Women Act Faces Stiff Opposition From Unexpected Quarter

June 13, 2010
Sumanth

A Human life is full of sufferings. However concern for fellow human beings must always be accompanied by Compassion. Concern without compassion is called fraud.On Feb 04, 2010, Senator John Kerry and others reintroduced I-VAWA (International Violence against Women Act) in Senate and US House of representatives. This bill if passed will fund 1 Billion Dollars for forcing Governments across 10 to 15 countries for stringent laws and policies to prevent violence against women. This bill is handled by Senate and House Foreign Affairs Committees.


Video of Senator John Kerry introducing I-VAWA:




Within two weeks of introduction of the bill in both Senate and House, the members of Save Indian Family Foundation and the Civil Liberties Groups in US started opposing it saying that this bill will not help the abused women, but will only lead to Civil Liberties Violations by jailing of innocent men, women and children under gender biased laws in many countries including India. They wanted statutory language in this bill to prevent this one billion dollars getting into vested interests, agencies and NGOs, who undermine civil liberties.

Flyers were distributed and several meetings were held in offices of Senators and House Representatives in last couple of months to convey them about the dangers of such ideological activism being made a part of US foreign policy. (link, link)


I-VAWA bill is mainly pushed by Amnesty International with support from Womenthrive and Family Violence Prevention Fund. On October 2009, Nicole Kidmann, as UNIFEM goodwill ambassador went to the Subcommittee on foreign relations with a team of feminists to convince them to created wider support for this 1 billion dollar program. (link )

If this bill is implemented, then the 1 billion dollars will be given to NGOs across 10 to 20 countries directly or via USAID (United States Agency for International Development), the charity arm of US State Department that operates in many countries. In India, USAID already has an aid program of about 100 million dollars per year. Needless to say, the main motive behind USAID is not charity due to compassion for fellow human beings, but to influence foreign policy and business interests under the guise of charity. As the press releases of the I-VAWA bill contain terms like dowry murders and honour killings, it is almost certain that India will be included under the scope of this program and USAID in India may get as much as 100 million dollars to fund the NGOs and feminist ideologues to push for many more biased women, rather wife centric laws in India for prevention of violence against women.

The main problems with the I-VAWA bill are that it is too simplistic and naïve and it assumes too much. For example, it assumes that a package of laws created for women’s empowerment will automatically end violence against women ignoring the issues like corrupt police and dysfunctional judicial systems in many of these targeted countries. The bill also ignores the issues of possible Civil Liberties Violations and “Family Breaking” in cultures and societies which may be very different from US. The bill is just a “One size Fits All” Made-in-US package for solving problems in societies, where systems and cultures are much more complex, which an American may take decades to grasp.

Proponents of I-VAWA ignore Civil Liberties Violations:

The main proponent of this bill is Amnesty International. For many years Amnesty International has opposed the changes in “Section 498a of Indian Penal Code (IPC)” to stop its misuse and arrests of innocent men, women and children. So, the belief system here is, when it comes to women’s issues, Civil Liberties Violations can be justified even by Amnesty International. The same organization is pushing for I-VAWA now.

Bikramjeet Batra, Legal Officer of Amnesty International writes in 2004, ignoring the civil liberties violations due to abuse of section 498a (dowry law) (link):

All laws are capable of and subject to abuse and misuse – including Section 498A. The solution does not lie in dismissing the law or taking away its teeth completely by making it compoundable and bailable. This is akin to throwing away the baby with the bathwater.


Section 498a is one of the 3 domestic violence prevention laws in India, which was implemented in 1983, about a decade before US implemented Violence against Women Act (VAWA). This law considers the accused men, women and children to be guilty till proven innocent. In last 5 years, more than 550,000 men, 160,000 women and scores of children were harassed, traumatized, arrested or jailed in India under this law.

Section 498a directly violates several articles of Universal Declaration of Human Rights (link):

Article 5

No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 7

All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

Article 9

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

Article 11

1. Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.

 

USAID in India has categorically opposed the amendments to this law even though it conducted a research about misuse of 498a in 2005. It has created a radical organization called womenpowerconnect.org, which has been a strong voice against amendments to section 498a.


The research report and seminar contents are available in links below:

http://www.csrindia.org/attachments/Research%20-%20498A.pdf
http://www.498a.org/contents/Publicity/CSRStudy_FinalSeminarReport.pdf


It is to be noted that the public opinion in India and Indian Government is towards amending section 498a of IPC to prevent its misuse and put an end to arrests of innocent men, women and children. As “women’s empowerment” is a highly politically correct topic and the powerful international agencies like USAID, UNIFEM, Amnesty International and their supported lapdogs in India are opposed to it, the Government of India is afraid of making amendments to this law. Indian Supreme Court and even Indian president have warned several times about this controversial highly misused law.

Interestingly, USAID is involved in some other issues as well. It was bragging about how it created a lobby group to amend Indian constitution for reservation of 33% seats in Indian Parliament for women by denying the men the right to contest in elections. (www.usaid.gov/in/newsroom/iwd_celeb.htm)

Now, why the hell USAID, a part of US State Department, meddling in a constitutional amendment in India? Whether there will be 30% or 10% reservation for women in parliament will be decided by people of India. Who the hell USAID is to force that on us? Needless to say, US has forced 33% reservation for women in many other countries including Afghanistan. This is highly inappropriate and irresponsible on the part of US State Department that it dared to touch the constitution of India and undermined India’s democracy.

All these activities of USAID are completely inconsistent with what the founding fathers of United State of America stood for.

US based columnist Carry Robert calls this activity an "Ugly American Initiative"(link).


The agencies pushing I-VAWA somehow would like all of us to believe that, when it comes to laws for women’s empowerment, the Civil Liberties can be ignored. This thought process extremely dangerous. It will be a foreign policy disaster, if US does not rein in its own agencies, which undermine Civil Liberties Violations and democracy in other countries.   

Let us look at two specific instances of Civil Liberties Violations here one involving a 2 month old girl and another involving a 92-year old woman. Does it bother the officials of Amnesty International, UNIFEM, USAID or US Government?If they consider it a problem of Indian police and judiciary, while supporting section 498a in current form, then they are meddling in Indian affairs without responsibility or compassion.That necessitates closure of their offices and operations in India.We do not need them here.

Stepmom Names Two-Month-Old in Dowry FIR (link)

In diapers, lying in her mother's lap and yet to sprout teeth, but Zoya is an accused in a dowry harassment case. The two-month-old baby was named along with seven adults by her stepmother in a complaint letter to the police. What is worse is that the police has included the child's name in the FIR [“First Information Report,” the Indian equivalent of a police report]. Her mom: I told them (police) that she is a baby and how can you write her name in the police FIR.

92 year old woman dragged to police stations (link)


The officer in-charge of Bainsada police station had arrested Badan Devi (92), a widow, and her 40-yearold daughter Minatee of Ichhapur village on Saturday. The police action followed an FIR lodged by the woman's daughter-in-law, Santilata. Police did not even bother to make special arrangements for the old woman. They virtually dragged the tottering accused" to court along with other criminals.


The Senators and Congressmen cannot pass a bill in US Congress any more ignoring the diversion of funds for conducting radical experiments on complex societies by some fringe ideologues in US. US cannot afford anti-American protests across various cities across India for funding programs that violate civil liberties.

In a region, where there are a billion Muslims, who hate America and a billion plus Chinese, who are talking of using debt as a strategic weapon against US, can US afford to alienate at least a section of billion plus Indians with its ugly American initiatives?

SIF members and others responded angrily to US Ambassador to India Timothy Roemer in his blog, as he started talking about creating a package of laws to eliminate domestic violence in India. Within days, he found that the costs of US’s misadventures towards creating heavy incentives towards “Family Breaking” and ignoring Civil Liberties Violations can prove to be very costly.

He tried to distance US Stand in the issue of Section 498a calling it as an internal matter between Indian people and Indian Government. This has to be welcomed. However, till the time US State Department does not clean up USAID and the ideologues who worked for sustaining laws that violate Civil Liberties, the issues will not be considered resolved.(http://blogs.usembassy.gov/roemer/2010/05/04/section-498a/)

As a result of my postings about the importance of support for women’s rights and empowerment, I have received a number of comments criticizing Section 498A. Clearly, this is a very controversial law about which people have strong feelings. It is fortunate that we live in this great democracy where Indians can debate these kinds of issues honestly and openly. In fact, Indian laws are best debated among Indians and I can only hope that Indian society will find a path that will lead to fairness for all – men, women and children.


SIF’s current stand is that US State Department must close down all USAID funded programs in India and close down its office in US Embassy. One must not allow an agency which undermines democracy, promotes violation of civil liberties and meddles with our constitution to operate in Indian soil. Its 100 million dollars (a mere 450 crores) programs are not even a drop in the ocean and that charity tokenism must be put to an end. SIF also warned the US Senators and Congressmen to use special statutory language in the I-VAWA bill to exclude India from these programs. India does not need the failed American experiments and social theories created by radical ideologues, whose behavior and attitudes border many of those insane characters in history, who perpetrated grave crimes against humanity.

Abuse, arrests and jailing of innocent women, children and elder under section 498a is a grave crime against humanity as Indian jails are in no way better than any concentration camps. The perpetrators and abettors of these crimes against humanity need to be tried by tribunals in some neutral countries.

United States of America is under trillions of dollars of debt. With economic turmoil, many Governors in different States are cutting millions of dollars of funds to domestic violence programs. (link)

The Keystone State would also eliminate all state-funded programs for the homeless and substance abusers, as well as reduce state-supported social services for poor adults and families by 90%. And it would cut in half funding for domestic violence and rape crisis assistance.



It is better for US to spend than 1 billion dollars towards own taxpayers rather than funding some insane ideologues thousands of miles away. Every American Family will pay 20 dollars for I-VAWA apart from another 100 dollar they per every year for AID to Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan and some other countries.

One out of 4 teenage girls in US has Sexually Transmitted Diseases. (link). US should spend the billion dollars to save its own daughters from STDs. The murder rate in US due to family breaking is double that of India. The chance of a woman getting raped in US is 24 times more compared to the chance of a woman getting raped in India. US should look inwards and fix itself instead of forgetting national boundaries and indulging in international misadventures with the limited knowledge and expertise of its Government and politicians.

What moral right US and its politicians have got in interfering in other countries to improve them? The social experiments that US conducted using radical gender ideologies in own soil have failed. Why it has to export these same failed social experiments to complex societies risking huge political costs and stroking anti-American passions? Is not it the time US starts trusting the other countries as responsible civilizations capable of taking care of their internal and regional social problems including gender related issues and start investing more into its own people, who are worried about its mounting debt and job losses?


The funds will never reach the abused women in developing countries due to bureaucracy and corruption in the system and in the NGOs. Ultimately, the situation does not improve and the same corrupt NGOs will keep asking couple of more billion dollars showcasing the plight of abused women, who were never helped in the first place.

The plot below uses statistics from some very reliable sources and compares the rate of domestic violence faced by Indian and American women. It shows something very interesting. Women in many states, who are educated (definition: have completed just 10 years of schooling), have very less chance of facing domestic violence compared to their sisters even in United States of America. For example, only 6% educated women in state of Karnataka faced domestic violence ever in life time. That is, a slap in 1983 and nothing afterwards puts a woman in this 6%. Whereas, uneducated and illiterate women have 45% chance of facing domestic violence in life time. India’s police and rotten judicial system does not reach out to these uneducated and illiterate women.

The jealous ideologues use the incidents of domestic violence on illiterate women to push for laws and policy directions, which get misused by the greedy crowd in the left side of the plot.


Domestic Violence India and US

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conclusions:

Many Senators and Congressmen believe 1 billion dollars of funds for I-VAWA program is a waste of American tax payer’s money.

It is almost certain that democrats will lose majority in the House of Representatives in this November and will have narrow majority in Senate. The fiscal conservative fire breathing Tea Party Activists are emerging as a strong force demanding Government to stop expanding itself to control people’s lives at everywhere. Its time, the rest of the world too tells US Government to mind its own business.

With such circumstances it will not be easy to push I-VAWA. However, some fanatics are still frantically trying to get this bill passed before November. If the democrats do not stop Anti-Family policies and do not stop radical ideologue exporting hate in India, then it is just a matter of time, there will be protests in India against these “Ugly American Initiatives”. There is nothing for Indians to learn from US’s failed experiments related to its gender relations and family. The data and statistics speak for themselves.

The rhetoric of women’s empowerment must also be accompanied with compassion for fellow human beings. That is lacking with United States as of now. It will not succeed in its ventures. It’s time, US Government stops misleading its taxpayers and the citizens of the world with wild rhetoric. The world does not need US’s failed social experiments.


Sumanth is an Indian Men's Rights Activist.
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International Violence against Women Act Faces Stiff Opposition From Unexpected Quarter

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