Monday, April 22, 2013

Sorry State of Women In India

Tragic tales of violence against women and children has emerged from India.  Here are just a few of the headlines that have appeared this week:

Indian PM Manmohan Singh: women's status and safety a growing concern...  India must make vast improvements to protect women, says prime minister amid protests over rape of five-year-old girl.

From the Times of India:
CPM politburo member Brinda Karat on Sunday called for the need to amend the criminal law to protect tribal women against the atrocities by officials and guards of forest department.Expressing concern over the increase in crimes against women, Brinda Karat said the issue of atrocities against tribal women should also be addressed. 

From The Hindu:
Even as protests against the brutal rape of a five-year-old girl in the Gandhi Nagar area of East Delhi snowballed into widespread public outrage, the 22-year-old casual worker accused of the crime was brought here on Saturday.

From The Siasat Daily:
The brutal rapist of the five-year-old girl had met his equally vile partner-in-crime during a chance meeting aboard a train earlier this year, sources claimed on Sunday. Identified by sources as one Pradeep, the man in question is now ‘officially’ the second accused in the case which took place precisely a week ago. “Manoj Kumar Sah, the main accused, kept twisting facts, changing his statements and putting the entire blame on Pradeep as soon as he was arrested,” said an officer.

Also from The Siasat Daily:
Second Delhi child rape accused arrested from Bihar .....One more person allegedly involved in the rape of a five-year-old girl in New Delhi a week ago has been arrested, police said on Monday. Pradeep, the second accused, was apprehended from Bihar in a joint operation by Delhi and Bihar Police, Delhi Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar told PTI.

And this again from The Siasat Daily:
Delhi rape accused Manoj raped wife before marriage .....In another shocking revelation it has been reported that rape accused Manoj Kumar, who was arrested by police yesterday had also raped his wife before marriage.

From Huffington Post:
Women's groups here are hailing a new law, passed March 21, that stiffens punishments of sexual violence in the aftermath of the notorious gang rape last December that left a medical student dead.

And then this tragic story from The Siasat Daily:
A 22-year-old mentally challenged woman was raped allegedly by a ward boy at a nursing home whose doctors have been arrested on charge of trying to bribe the victim's kin to hush up the matter. The incident occurred at Walhekarwadi in Chinchwad town near hear on April 16 in the nursing home run by Dr Vishal Sonawane (34) and his wife Dr Varsha (31) where the victim was undergoing treatment, police said today. Police arrested the accused, identified as Subhash Modad (22), on the charge of rape and the doctor couple for trying to hush up the matter and bribe the victim's kin to not report the incident to police as it would bring bad name to their hospital.

Gruesome footage surfaced today of four men relentlessly beating an Indian woman in Ludhiana, a city in the northwest Indian province of Punjab. The woman says she was beaten because she asked to be repaid a sum of money that she had lent to one of the men. The amount is reported to be 20,000 rupees, the equivalent of about $370 USD.

From CTV News:
But exotic ancient India has run headlong into the rapidly growing economic powerhouse, where women have stepped out of traditional roles, resulting in harsh questions about their treatment which is considered to be among the worst in the world. Rape is common. Sexual assault goes unreported. The victim is often blamed, which the perpetrator walks free.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Anne of Cleves: Henry's Luckiest Wife

I had the pleasure of reading a new (and soon to be published) work by David featuring the fourth wife of Henry VIII of England and entitled "Anne of Cleves: Henry's Luckiest Wife".

Anne has had a bit of a rough time at the hands of chroniclers and writers, being described as being most unpleasant in appearance and personal charm, folksy and uncultured, the Flanders Mare; and yet she also comes across as smart, personable and even pleasant of appearance, and certainly shrewd enough to make a financially beneficial “divorce” from Henry which set her up for the rest of her life in England.  Even today, Anne remains an enigma.

This retelling of Anne’s life is initially told to us in the first person by Anne herself, as she reflects upon her life and the events leading up to her marriage to Henry VIII, King of England.  Anne’s recollections are interspersed with a more standard retelling of events as they occurred before, during and after her marriage.  We find Anne adjusting to court life around her and to her change of status once the divorce was made formal. We are then taken through the events that took place from the death of Henry VIII to Anne’s own demise.

I found this to be a rather enjoyable read, and David presents Anne in a more personable light, attributing to her some measure of intelligence and understanding of the politics of the day, as well as being a typical Tudor-era woman who enjoyed the finer things in life – friends, fashion, gossip, the good life.

Anne certainly was the luckiest of Henry’s wives – she married Henry and managed to keep her head!  And she outlasted both Henry and all his other wives, dying aged 41 in 1557.

For those with a love of all things Tudor, this is a must for your personal library.

David has written a number of  works that readers will enjoy – I certainly found his book on Shakespeare quite intriguing!

You can see a full list of David's books at his website - author website and Goodreads website

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Peng Liyuan: First Lady of China

From the Washington Post:

A photo of China’s new first lady Peng Liyuan in younger days, singing to martial-law troops following the 1989 bloody military crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, flickered across Chinese cyberspace this week.
It was swiftly scrubbed from China’s Internet before it could generate discussion online. But the image — seen and shared by outside observers — revived a memory the leadership prefers to suppress and shows one of the challenges in presenting Peng on the world stage as the softer side of China.
The country has no recent precedent for the role of first lady, and also faces a tricky balance at home. The leadership wants Peng to show the human side of the new No. 1 leader, Xi Jinping, while not exposing too many perks of the elite. And it must balance popular support for the first couple with an acute wariness of personality cults that could skew the consensus rule among the Chinese Communist Party’s top leaders.

Julia Pierson: Head of Secret Service

From CNN:

Julia Pierson was sworn in Wednesday as the first female director of the Secret Service in its 148-year history. She took the standard federal oath administered by Vice President Joe Biden with President Obama holding the Bible in the Oval Office.
"As Joe Biden pointed out, this person now probably has more control over our lives than anyone else, except for our spouses, and I couldn't be placing our lives in better hands," Obama told reporters after the swearing-in.
Pierson has been the chief of staff to the director since August 2008. Her 30-year career began in 1983 when she served as a special agent in the Miami field office. In 2000 she was promoted to special agent in charge of protective operations.

Joann Fletcher: Women in Ancient Egypt

It is a little-known fact that ancient Egypt was populated almost entirely by men. Or at least, this is the impression one would gain from reading many of the publications about ancient Egypt in in which women appear as some sort of minority sub-group. Many works deal exclusively with a male elite of kings, priests and scribes.

Now I'm not for one minute saying Egyptian women ran around doing exactly as they pleased, since most were wives and mothers and the most common female title was Lady of the House, meaning housewife. Yet they did also work in the public sphere alongside men at every level of society, in farming, brewing and baking, buying and selling, sitting on juries and even steering cargo ships.

Ultimately the women of ancient Egypt were able to exercise a degree of power and self-determination which was clearly unusual both in the ancient world and in many places today. I think it's fair to say that they can still teach us much.

Joann Fletcher is a research and teaching fellow at the University of York. Her series was on BBC2 -  Ancient Egypt: Life and Death in the Valley of the Kings

Meghalaya: Modern Day Matriarchy

The one and only place in India where the birth of a baby girl is greeted with ecstasy is Meghalaya, where the mother's family, waiting in the corridor of the maternity ward, break into laughter, hugs and clap their hands for joy.

''When a boy is born, the reaction is very different, subdued - 'Oh, OK, fine, whatever God gives us must be accepted,'' says Merle Gilford, a nurse at Nazareth Hospital in Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya, a picturesque state of wooded hills and mists in the north-east.

In male-dominated, boy-fixated Indian society, Meghalaya is an aberration. It holds one of the world's last surviving matrilineal societies. The 1.2 million strong Khasi tribe invests all power in its women. For thousands of years, the Khasis have traced their descent, inheritance and lineage from mother to daughter.