Nepali, American teachers join hands to teach climate change



Promoted by the Duke University, USA, a group of Nepali and American middle-schoolteachers have launched a joint effort to develop teaching materials about climate change through sharing and exchanging of students and teachers.

As its first activity in Nepal, a four-member team from the USA made a four-day visit to Nepal. During the time, the middle-school teachers from the southeastern United States visited a number of government and private schools, including Budanilkantha, Gyanodaya, and Ullens in Kathmandu.

Baishakhi Taylor, the leader of the team and an expert from Duke University, North Carolina, USA said the programme mainly aim at helping both American and Nepali students learn how the global warming is impacting the communities in Nepal.

"This is the first visit of this kind in Nepal and we hope to bring together more teachers, students and scientists from both US and Nepal to discuss, share and learn about issues of climate change," she said.

During their visit in Nepal, the group discussed with the teachers and scientists in Kathmandu on developing new teaching materials about climate change.

Taylor said the programme would produce classroom lessons to help both American and Nepali students learn how global warming and other trends are affecting people in Nepal.

Ayodhya verdict: Udaas Mausam ke khilaf convention in Lucknow

The Ayodhya verdict of September 30 constitutes a dangerous precedent, which can be used against any vulnerable group in future, like any minority, Dalits, Tribals and women. For almost 500 years, Muslims had worshipped routinely in the Babri Mosque, while Hindus worshipped at the Ram Chabutra in the open area adjacent to the mosque, in a spirit of mutual goodwill. With this judgment, the movement which challenged India’s secular Constitution and took hundreds of lives, and fostered fear and hate has triumphed.

This movement demanding that a grand Ram Temple should be built on the site in Ayodhya where the Babri Masjid stood is often understood to be a clash between Hindus and Muslims. There is indeed no such clash, and there never has been. It has always been a dispute between two alternate visions of India; between Hindutva and secularism; between a minority of persons unreconciled to the secular democratic idea of India, and the majority of Indians of every faith who believe in and live this idea.   

The judgement reopens again the question about the terms on which people of minority faiths would have to relate to cultural domination of the religious majority. In effect, it interrogates the guarantees of the Indian Constitution, which pledged equal rights and equal protection of all persons, regardless of their religious persuasion. There is a need both in courts of law, but more importantly in the arenas of society and the polity, to battle for the restoration of the values of the freedom struggle, and the Constitution which the people of India gave themselves.

ANHAD and INSAF in collaboration with a large number of UP based organisations are calling for a Convention on November 29, 2010 in Lucknow.



Symposium of Nepal PEN and Korean PEN

A one day symposium/workshop was organized by Nepal PEN and Korean PEN on November 20th at Patan, Kathmandu, Nepal.


PEN is an international organization of poets, writers and novelists. This was the first time that a Sijo, Korean short style lyrical poem was held in Nepal. There are already a large number of Nepalese working in Korea. On the other hand, many Koreans are visiting Nepal as tourists.


President of PEN Nepal Ram Kumar Pandey and President of PEN KOREA Lee Gil Won jointly inaugurated the session by lighting a lamp on a Panas. The inaugural session was presided by well known writer and film personality Chetan Karki.


In the second session fourteen Nepalese poets and writers recited Sijo in Nepali. These included such well known poets as Manjul and critics as Ram Dayal Rakesh who is also Vice President of PEN NEPAL. Other poets included Murari Sigdel, Bam Bahadur Jitali, Bhisma Upreti, Pitambara Pius and Sushma Acharya.  Seven Korean poets including Vice President of PEN Korea Yoo Ja Hyo also recitred Sijo poems on this occasion. President of PEN Korea distributed certificate of attendance and gifts to Nepalese participants of Sijo recital. PEN Nepal President distributed certificates and gifts to Korean participants. Presidents of both PENs granted honorary membership to each other. Ram Dayal Rakesh talked about aesthetic aspects of Nepali poetry. Secretary of PEN Nepal Prakash A.Raj said that few poets in Nepal knew about Korean Sijo poetry in the past but this may be changing now.

Nepal's parliament witnessed the first brawl after the declaration of republic


Nepal’s parliament witnessed the first brawl after the declaration of republic in 2008 that threw away the 240-year-old institution of monarchy for a new Nepal.


The Maoist lawmakers pounced at the Finance Minister Surendra Pandy as he walked towards the podium with his brief case. The Speaker looked the brawl for a while, and as if in a feat, adjourned the hosue until Dec. 2. The non-Moist lawmakers cooled themselves down by criticizing the “barbaric” Maoists with the Media. The non-Maoist lawmakers also vented ire against the Speaker for becoming a mute onlooker while the Maosit lawmakers were beating up the finance minsiter.


The story took a new turn after a while as the government called a Cabinet meeting and decided to end the entire House session through Dr. President Ram Baran Yadav’s decree. After the House was adjournced, the government announced the budget through an ordinace. The Interim Constitution allows the governmetn to bring an ordiance, includign in case of brining annual budget, which down not require the House approval at the same time. The ordiance has to be passed within 60 days from its tableing or else it will be automatically null and void.


The live TV broadcast from inside the House was stopped right after the brawl started.

Congress leader Prakash Saran Mahat received a strong punch by Maist leader Lekh Raj Bhatta and so and so.


God save Nepal.


Non-Resident Madheshis Association (NRM-A) and South Asia Initiatives organised Harvard University Seminar on Madhesh in UK


The Non-Resident Madheshis Association (NRM-A) and South Asia Initiatives have organised the Harvard University Seminar on Madhesh on Nov. 15 at the university premises in London.


NRM-A is incorporated as a non-profit organization in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, USA. The NRM-A is a global umbrella organization of Madheshis living abroad to foster the identity and the awareness of the issues of Madhesh and Madheshis, and to promote the welfare of all Madheshis. It has its presence in the United States, Europe, Australia, Africa and the Middle East, South Asia, and Nepal.


Warriors' David Lee hospitalized after 2nd surgery

Warriors power forward David Lee had his second surgical procedure to flush out an infection in his left elbow Monday, setting off a whirlwind of speculation as to how the injury was initially treated.

In a unique move by the Warriors, who are usually guarded when it comes to injuries, they made the doctor available to the media Tuesday. Dr. Bill Maloney said that the infection probably could not have been avoided, then explained the treatment process and offered a glowing outlook for Lee's recovery.

Lee, Golden State's $80 million man, was still hospitalized at Stanford Hospital on Tuesday for further treatment and monitoring.

The 6-foot-9 forward got a puncture wound from Wilson Chandler's tooth in the third quarter of the Warriors' win over the Knicks last Wednesday. Lee's elbow was wrapped, he returned to the game, and he made two free throws with 1.5 seconds left to put the Warriors up by five points. After the game, the Knicks' doctors cleaned the wound and sent Lee on his way.

"I know there is a lot of speculation out there, but it almost doesn't matter how it was treated," Maloney said. "I don't think they could have avoided this. The die was cast when he got the tooth through the skin with a deep enough puncture wound to allow the bacteria to get in there."

The Warriors flew to Chicago for the tail end of a back-to-back, and Lee awoke Thursday in "the worst pain" of his life and went to the emergency room. His elbow looked like a grapefruit that had been kicked around a dirt lot as he explained why he was missing the Bulls' game with an "elbow scratch."

After the 30-point loss to Chicago, Lee was evaluated by the Bulls' doctors and went back to the emergency room. That's when new owner Joe Lacob, who had corresponding business in New York and Chicago, stepped in. He had his plane wait at Midway Airport for Lee and general manager Larry Riley, and they flew back to the Bay Area.

"It's a very dangerous situation," said Lacob, who reached out to his connections at Stanford and brought in some of the 49ers' physicians. "It didn't feel to me like it was going well. I made the executive decision to bring him back to California. They're all over it."

Lee had his first surgery performed Friday in Fremont by Dr. Frank Chen and was released the next day. By Sunday, he was back at the hospital - this time heading to Stanford.

Maloney said the infection might need to be washed out four or five times, and he hopes that Lee will be released from the hospital by the end of the week.

"Everybody wants him to get better and go back and play quickly, but the mistake we're trying to avoid is letting him get back too soon and letting it get stirred up again," Maloney said.

Maloney wouldn't hazard to guess, but it sounds as if Lee will miss another two or three weeks. The swelling and redness around the elbow have shown progress and it's draining, according to Maloney.

"Every time we look at it, it looks better, but these things are notoriously bad actors," he said. "David is not going to have any long-term (effects). Delayed diagnosis could lead to very serious problems, but he's not going to have any of those."

The Warriors are 1-2 without Lee and have been outrebounded by 21 in those three games. Some of the locker-room jollity has disappeared and much of the defensive communication has been muted.

"I didn't even notice he was missing," center Andris Biedrins tried to joke. "No, we really miss that guy. It's really, really bad.

"Hopefully, he'll get better soon and be able to come back and help us."

Read more:

Over 300,000 convicts on the loose

Lack of political will to blame, says the judiciary







In what appears to be an unsettling picture of impunity in Nepal, over 300,000 people, most of them criminals, convicted by the court have been walking free -- and without a fear of being caught.


This figure, which is one percent of Nepal’s current estimated population, made availabe to the Post by the Judiciary Execution Directorate (JED) does not include the criminals currently in the prisons or custody.


The latest data collected from the courts across the counrty revealed that there are over 100,000 court verdicts unimplemented, leading to impunity for an average of three lawbreakers in each case. “The exact number of convicts enjoying impunity could be more than 300,000 as most of the verdicts have more than three convicts,” said Y.P. Basyal, chief of JED.


Though the directorate is yet to collect and varify the details of the absconding convicts, the officials said, the list includes political leaders, businessmen and professional gangsters.


The survey also revelas that Kathmandu is the worst district with heighest number of criminals on the loose. As per the survey report, which contains data of of all 75 districts, the top five worse performers are: Kathmandu (with 12,046 verdicts unimplemented), Saptari (10,355), Sunsari (5,235), Parsa (5,047) and Rupendehi (3,691).


According to Kathamndu District Court records, the oldest unimplemented verdict dates back to 1951 and none knows whereabouts of the convicts as very few details remain safe. “Some of the convicts could be already dead,” said a court official.


Despite the horrific picture of impunity, the response is miserably slow. As the government failed to effectively enforce court decisions, the Supreme Court last year established JED to take up the job. But with only half a dozen staff and no separate security back up, the JED has been able to nab only 297 out of over 36,000 absconding convicts in Kathmandu. It is yet to start its work in other districts.


“We are trying to first prepare the database before we move to full operation,” said the JED Chief. “But the impunity is so high and widespread that without strong and separate police force, we are unable to nab all the criminals.”


The Supreme Court, in its original plan, had proposed the governmetn for arranging about 1,000 security personnel for JED which is in limbo “due to the political intability”.


“If the government really wants to control crime in the society, it should show will power to implement all these verdicts,” said Rajendra Acharya, Director at JED. “The impunity is in fact encouraging criminals to repeat crimes.”


Top 10 worst impunity


Dead Verdicts?























Total (all 75 districts)



NEPAL: A man dies under questionable circumstances in police custody in Chitwan District and no investigation is conducted

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information regarding the death of Som Bahadur Barai, a 49 year old man, while in the custody of the Area Police Office, Ratnanagar, Chitwan District, on 22 September 2010. The police claimed that the victim hanged himself in his cell a few hours after his arrest. Nevertheless, the victim's family challenges this version of events and suspects that the victim was tortured to death and that the police are trying to cover up the case. The family was not informed of the arrest and death of their relatives until 19 October and the police had repeatedly ignored their request for assistance in finding about Som Bahadur's whereabouts. Although the victim's father has filed a First Information Report on 19 October 2010 to ask for a proper investigation into the circumstances of his son's death, no such investigation has been launched into the case so far.




According to the information we have received from a local human rights NGO, Som Bahadur Barai was arrested on 22 September 2010 from Prasauni-8 Ratnanagar municipality, Chitwan district by four to five residents of Ratnanagar Municipality who accused him of having stolen a bicycle. The victim was handed over to the Area Police Office (APO) at 4pm, Ratnanagar and detained there. At the time of arrest, Som Bahadur Barai was reportedly heavily drunk. 


According to police inspector Ram Prakash Chaudhary, in charge of the APO, Som Bahadur Barai was not taken to the hospital for a medical check-up as is mandatory for every arrested person because he was supposed to be released soon. According to the police, on the same evening at around 7.30 pm, as Som Bahadur Barai was left alone in his cell -- his co-detainee being in the T.V. room -- he tried to hang himself to a window panel after having torn a blanket. The police reportedly took him to Bharatpur hospital where he was declared dead at 9p.m.


According to Samshed Alam who participated in the arrest and the handing over of Som Bahadur, two days after the arrest, the police called him to the police station and made him sign a paper but he claims he does not know what was written on it. At that time, the police did not ask him about the address of Som Bahadur neither did they inform him of the death.


Similarly, Mr. Ramesh Regmi, the victim's co-detainee, reports that on 24 September he was called to the District Police Office, Bharatpur. There, he was reportedly shown photographs of the deceased and asked to sign a paper stating that the deceased had not been tortured in custody. Nevertheless, Mr. Ramesh Regmi reports that when he heard the news that Som Bahadur had hung himself in his cell, he did not go out to see what happened exactly and he does not know whether Som Bahadur had been subjected to police torture or not.


Ms. Ganga Darai, the victim's wife, was without news of her husband since the morning of 22 September. On 25 September, she visited the APO with her relatives and showed Inspector Ram Prakash Chaudhary pictures of the missing person. Nevertheless, he reportedly asserted that Som Bahadur had not been arrested by the APO and suggested that they visit the District Police Office (DPO), Bharatpur. When they visited the DPO, the police told them that there was no detainee with that name. On 19 October she heard about Samshed Alam's role in her husband's arrest and visited him. Together they went to the APO, Ratnanagar where the police informed them that he had been transferred to DPO, Bharatpur. When they went to the DPO, the police showed them the clothes and photographs of the deceased. After they had identified him on the photographs, the police asked Deepak Darai, Som Bahadur's younger brother, to sign a receipt for the body but by then the body had already been cremated. 


The victim's family claims that the police tortured the victim to death and tried to hide his body. Indeed, the police did not try to contact the victim's relatives who are live only 500 meters away from the police office or to ask Samshed Alam for the victim's name when he was asked to come to the police station, neither did they respond to the relatives' queries when they first visited the APO with pictures of the deceased. 


According to police inspector Ram Prakash Chaudhary, police had been unable to find the relatives of the deceased and therefore handed the body over to Bharatpur Municipality for it to be cremated. The police inspector reportedly explains the fact that his name and address were not kept in the police record by saying that the victim did not say anything about himself. Section 23(2) of the Police Act 1956 mandates that all police stations must keep a daily record of all the detainees.


Moreover, according to the NGO investigation team who visited the scene, the window panel where Som Bahadur allegedly hanged himself is only 5 feet high when the victim's height was almost 5.4 feet, which makes it unlikely that the victim hung himself there. Further, the window panel was not bended or broken. Questions have also arisen regarding the reason why the deceased's body was handed over to Bharatpur Municipality instead of Ratnanagar Municipality where the victim was detained and died. 


The postmortem report concludes that the cause of death could not be ascertained and that it will be determined after the viscera examination is conducted. Dr. Apurb Thakur who examined the body the night he was brought to the hospital asserts that he found no mark on the throat of the deceased but that the "deep tendon reflex" was absent.


On 19 October, Magara Darai, Som Bahadur's father, filed a First Information Report at DPO, Bharatpur. Since then and at the time of writing, no independent investigation has been conducted to determine the cause of the death.


As a grade "B" police station, the APO Ratnanagar does not have the authority to detain or file a case against anyone without referring to the District Police Office.



In spite of the strong lip-service being paid by political parties and the Nepal Police to the eradication of torture and to the accountability of the police system, this commitment is still to translate into actions and the persistence of some practices perpetuate the impunity of the perpetrators and increase the risk of the detainees to be subjected to torture.


Detaining people incommunicado increases the risk to see them subjected to torture and ill-treatment. To prevent that incidence, in his 2005 Nepal visit, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture had expressly recommended that the custody register must be properly kept and that the state of health of the detainee on arrival should be checked. The Nepal Police Act made it mandatory for all the police station to keep a standardized register recording the names of all the arrested and detained persons. In this case, the victim was detained, without having his name recorded in the police register and being provided with medical examination, in a "grade B" police station which was not allowed to file a case against him nor to keep him in detention without the prior approval of the District Police Office. No one was informed of his detention, making him vulnerable to abuses with the perpetrators guaranteed that it would not be known. 


Further, the victim's co-detainee was asked to sign a paper on which he testifies that Som Bahadur had not been tortured, even though he did not know about it for sure. Similarly, Samshed Alam was asked to sign a paper whose content he ignored. Those incidents recall a recurrent trend of police attempts to cover up incidents of torture by pressuring the witnesses to testify that no torture had taken place. For instance, in 2009 in Morang District, the police launched a petition stating that two men who had been severely beaten up in public by police officers had in reality been beaten up by the public and hence not subjected to torture. Please see UAC-086-2009 for more information.


The absence of independent investigation being held in all the cases of death occurring in custody provides impunity to the perpetrators and encourages further abuses as it is less likely that cases in which torture has been the cause of death come to light and lead to severe sanctions. Further, the absence of any independent body to conduct the investigations implies that in the few cases that an investigation is lead it is conducted by police officers, sometimes from the same police station as the alleged perpetrators. In the case of 16-year-old Dharmendra Barai, dead in questionable circumstances while in custody of the Khajuriya Police Post, in Rupendehi District, on 4 July 2010, it is only after repeated pressure from the civil society and the victim's family that an investigation team was eventually established. Nevertheless, the team was composed exclusively of policemen under the leadership of a government official and it has reportedly failed to show diligence in int erviewing the protagonists and studying the evidence. (Please see: AHRC-UAU-034-2010 for more information)


The necessity to have an independent investigation held in every case of custodial death is an indispensible element of a torture-free police system, which was recognized by the UN Body of Principles for the protection of all persons under any form of detention or imprisonment which establishes in its principles 34 that "Whenever the death or disappearance of a detained or imprisoned person occurs during his detention or imprisonment, an inquiry into the cause of death or disappearance shall be held by a judicial or other authority".


Several inconsistencies in the way the police have explained the death of the victim and several lapses in their handling of the case make the circumstances of Som Bahadur's death unclear. It should therefore be immediately investigated by an independent and impartial body to determine exactly the part the police played in this case.

Text messaging can improve treatment adherence in HIV patients


NOVEMBER 9, 2010

A trial in Kenya has shown that using text messages to help patients adhere to their treatment improves absolute adherence rates by 12% and numbers achieving viral load suppression by 9%. The results of the WelTel Kenya1 study are reported in an Article Online First and in an upcoming Lancet, written by Dr Richard Lester, British Columbia Centre for Disease Control, Vancouver, BC, Canada, and colleagues. The study is being presented at the 2010 ‘m Health’ Summit in Washington, DC, USA.

The number of cell phone users is rapidly expanding (4•5 billion cell phone subscribers are expected worldwide by 2012), mainly because of free market forces (ie, capitalism) and the demand for rapid wireless communications for personal use and to aid multisector economic development (eg, trade, tourism, and infrastructure); thus, mobile technology has the potential to be used in health systems worldwide. A wide range of medical services could be improved by providing patient-focused support and anagement
through the health-care system.

This study aimed to assess whether cell phone communication between health-care workers and patients starting antiretroviral therapy in Kenya improved drug adherence and suppression of plasma HIV-1 RNA load. The randomised trial assessed HIV-infected adults initiating antiretroviral therapy (ART) in three clinics in Kenya. Patients received a cell phone short message service (SMS) intervention or standard care. Patients in the intervention group received weekly SMS messages from a clinic nurse and were required to respond within 48 h.


Patients in the control group received standard follow-up without text messages. (The standard of care, which includes limited in person counselling with each clinic visit). Primary outcomes were self-reported ART adherence (>95% of prescribed doses in the past 30 days at both 6 and 12 month follow-up visits) and plasma HIV-1 viral RNA load suppression (<400 copies per mL) at 12 months.


Typically, the slogan “Mambo?” was sent, which is Kiswahili for “How are you?” The health workers used multiple recipient (bulk) messaging functions to improve efficiency. Patients in the intervention group were instructed to respond within 48h that either they were doing well (“Sawa”) or that they had a problem (“Shida”). The clinician then called patients who said they had a problem or who failed to respond within 2 days.

Between May, 2007, and October, 2008, a total of 538 participants were allocated either to the SMS intervention (n=273) or to standard care (n=265). Adherence to ART was reported in 168 of 273 (62%) patients receiving the SMS intervention compared with 132 of 265 (50%) in the control group. Suppressed viral loads were reported in 156 of 273 patients (57%) in the SMS group and 128 of 265 (48%) in the control group. One extra patient would achieve adherence for every nine patients using the SMS service; while one extra person would achieve viral suppression for every 12 treated in the SMS group.

The authors say: “This study shows that mobile health innovations can improve HIV treatment outcomes. Patients who received the SMS support were more likely to report adherence to ART and were more likely to have their viral load suppressed below detection levels than patients who received the standard care alone.”

Furthermore, they point out that, because only 3•3% of the weekly text messages identified a definitive requirement for follow-up (Shida), one nurse could potentially manage 1000 patients by SMS and expect to call only 33 patients per week.  The authors point out The SMS intervention is inexpensive (each SMS costs about US$0•05, equivalent to $20 per 100 patients per month, and follow-up voice calls averaged $3•75 per nurse per month) and the cell phone protocol uses existing infrastructure. This protocol is also probably less expensive than in-person community adherence interventions, on the basis of travel costs alone.

The authors conclude: “The applicability of this study to other countries and other diseases remains to be assessed. Factors that influence adherence are often common within Africa and other global settings. Although the uptake of wireless telecommunication devices is becoming ubiquitous, introduction of mobile health initiatives is variable. We believe that the patient-centred communication effect, in
particular the timely support of a patient by a health professional, is universal and can be improved by mobile telecommunication.”

In a linked Comment Dr Benjamin H Chi and Dr Jeffrey S A Stringer, Centre for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia, Lusaka, Zambia and University of Alabama School of Medicine, Birmingham, AL, USA, say: “In sub-Saharan Africa, the science of implementation—particularly focusing on patients’ adherence and retention—has understandably lagged behind the rapid pace of programme expansion. In this regard,
WelTel is an important step forward, one that shows the promise of technology to assist in settings where high-disease burden and resource constraints threaten a programme’s success. However, technology-based approaches represent only one of many effective means that should be considered by policy makers and health providers to improve adherence to antiretrovirals. A comprehensive multipronged approach tailored to the specific needs of individual local settings must be used if maximum gains in patients’ health are to be realised.”

'Citizenship can only identify a Nepali'


While the major three parties -- UCPN (Maoist), Nepali Congress and CPN-UML -- have been keeping mum, fringe parties and some organisations based in Kathmandu have continued to condemn the Election Commission (EC)'s decision not to make citizenship a compulsory document while issuing voter's ID in Tarai.

In a statement on Monday, Rastriya Jagaran Parishad said the EC decision was highly condemnable as it fails to understand the its implication in national security as the chances of the facility being misused were high given the poor security situation and open Nepal-India border. "There are no other documents that can replace or work as the citizenship certificate," reads a press release issued by the Parishad. "EC's earlier provision to issue voter ID based on citizenship was the right decision and it should be revived."

On Thursday, Rastriya Jana Morcha Party, a fringe party, had also condemned the EC decision stating that there was no need to consider recognising other government documents while issuing voter ID when any Nepali can get citizenship certificate within 24 hours. Jana Morcha had warned that if EC decision was to be implemented, it would turn Nepal into Fiji.

Following pressure from the Madhes-based parties, the EC on Nov. 3 had taken the decision that it would issue voter ID to those who does not have citizenship based on any other government document on the person's identification. Madhes-based parties had obstructed the EC's initiative in Tarai districts since the project was launched on Sept. 15 demanding that the citizenship should not be made compulsory while issuing voter ID.

Parisad also stated that given the fragile security situation in Tarai, it was almost impossible for the local bodies to issue documents only to the real Nepalis. EC decision stated that it would issue voter ID to any person without citizenship if he can bring a recommendation from local bodies. Parishad is preparing to challenge the EC decision at the Supreme Court (SC).

EC has, however, ruled out that its decision would allow non-Nepalis to get voter ID.

India: Reforming rape laws

A movement spreads to stop rape survivors from being subjected to the indignity of the finger test.

By Saritha Rai - GlobalPost 
Published: October 29, 2010 16:03 ET in Asia

BANGALORE, India — The finger test really is as bad as it sounds.

A doctor inserts two fingers into a rape victim's vagina to determine the presence or absence of the hymen and to assess whether she is accustomed to sexual intercourse.

Not only is it dehumanizing and offensive, it also doesn't yield accurate medical information, according to doctors and activists. What's more, it actually helps rape perpetrators escape the law.

In addition to standard procedures, such as a body exam and collection of swabs and nail clippings, many forensic doctors in India do the two-finger check on a rape victim. The findings of the test are often used as evidence in courts to demolish a woman’s character and disqualify her testimony. And Indian courts have a low conviction rate in rape cases, usually because the credibility of the victim is brought under question.

But now, Indian laws pertaining to rape and violence are coming up for a long overdue overhaul. The finger test is beginning to represent campaigners’ earnest fight to do away with outdated methods and phrases.


Jagadeesh Reddy is one such campaigner. The Bangalore-based forensic doctor and lawyer says the finger test is an irrelevant tool that actually helps offenders go scot-free.

“It is appalling that the finger test continues to be part of medical forensics textbooks in India,” said Reddy, who works at Bangalore’s Vydehi Institute of Medical Sciences. Doctors persist in recording such evidence and lawyers continue to debate cases based on the test, he says. He correlates the prevalence of the test to the low rate of rape convictions in the country.

Human Rights Watch has recently thrown its weight behind the issue. In a recent 54-page report, the international non-profit called the finger test inhuman and unscientific.

The report called "Dignity on Trial” has analyzed 153 higher court judgments on rape that refer to finger-test evidence. The report’s author and women’s rights researcher Aruna Kashyap said such evidence collection often helped offenders and their lawyers turn criminal cases into debates about the rape survivor’s sexual history.

The report quotes medico-legal evidence as saying “two fingers admitted,” “two fingers easily admitted,” or “two fingers not easily admitted.” These findings are then used to describe the rape survivor in phrases such as “habituated,” “used to” or "accustomed to” sexual intercourse. In case the victim is a young girl, single woman or widow, such terminology makes the prosecution process harrowing.

“If the forensic report says that the hymen admits two fingers, the defense will argue that the victim is a ‘loose’ woman,” Kashyap quoted, after interviewing dozens of survivors, lawyers, doctors and police officials.

At the core of the finger-test is the widespread belief that a sexually liberated woman is "asking for it" and protecting her is not the state’s responsibility.

While India has globalized and Westernized on many fronts, laws governing violence against women remain archaic.

Even now, a husband forcing sex on his wife can be punished only for domestic violence and not marital rape. The law has just recognized as rape sex obtained by falsely promising a woman marriage. In rural India, oppressed women are sometimes stripped and paraded naked in public. The perpetrators of this atrocious act can only be tried for "outraging the modesty."

(Originally published at


The Speech That Cleared Lincoln's Route to the White House

By Sally Jenkins
The Washington Post


The candidate stood uneasily on the rostrum, his black suit still creased from the valise he had carried on the three-day train trip from Springfield, Ill. As Abraham Lincoln began the speech intended to launch his presidential campaign, his voice was strained and piercing, his accent backwoods. "Mister Cheerman," he said, in a scratchy high timbre. It sounded like a chair leg being dragged across the floor.

Many of the 1,500 members of Northern elite who packed the Cooper Union in New York on Feb. 27, 1860, were shocked by the "involuntary comical awkwardness" of the speaker, as the New York Herald put it. Was this the political phenomenon they had heard so much about? He was a shambling figure of 6-foot-4 with a concave chest and thin neck. His sleeves were too short, one leg of his trousers rode up, and the left side of his collar had a tendency to flap. His black hair was disheveled, his gray eyes melancholy.

Lincoln was visibly nervous under the gas chandeliers. This was his crucial test as a presidential aspirant. In the glittering audience was every important Republican "wire puller" and political operative in the Northeast, including William Cullen Bryant, editor of the New York Evening Post, and Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune and a founder of the young party, which was barely five years old. The Republican nominating convention would be held in Chicago in just 10 weeks, and Lincoln's ability to challenge the polished front-runner, William H. Seward, depended on the impression he made.

First, Lincoln had to convince his listeners that he was "a finished statesman" like the New Yorker Seward, despite what publisher George H. Putnam called Lincoln's "weird, rough and uncultivated" appearance. That proved the easiest challenge. As Lincoln warmed to his subject, it was apparent he was no rube. He might be informal, and say "reckon," but any man who mistook him for simple "would very soon wake up with his back in a ditch," said Lincoln's friend Leonard Swett. Lincoln had given his powerful Illinois rival Stephen A. Douglas the political fight of his life in the 1858 Senate election. Douglas won, but their debates over slavery had vaulted Lincoln to national prominence and brought about his invitation to New York. Whoever won the Republican nomination would have to face Douglas, known as the Little Giant because he combined diminutive stature with great political clout and oratorical ability. Douglas was the author of the nation's most controversial compromises on slavery and the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate.

Slavery was the "living issue of the day," as Lincoln put it, and the political landscape was splintering because of it. Every current event seemed to further fracture political parties and push men to one side or another; the Supreme Court's Dred Scott decision appalled slavery's opponents, while John Brown's 1859 raid on Harpers Ferry, Va., incensed its supporters and frightened its apologists.

The new Republican Party had been founded on antislavery principles in 1854 as a direct response to the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Devised by Douglas that same year, the act allowed settlers in the new territories to vote whether to permit slavery within their borders. Now some Republicans wondered if the party should de-emphasize its antislavery values in an effort to attract voters. Not Lincoln. Though he was a comparative moderate who would not abolish slavery where it already existed, Lincoln believed the Republicans must have a man "who does not hesitate to declare slavery a wrong; nor to deal with it as such; who believes in the power and duty of Congress to prevent the spread of it."

The stakes were high. Slaves constituted a larger piece of the American economy in terms of capital than even the railroads or manufacturing. The richest town per capita in the nation was Natchez, Miss. There were 4 million American slaves, the vast majority of them in the South, and a single field hand was worth anywhere from $1,100 to $1,500 — roughly $75,000 to $135,000 in today's money. Small wonder Southern barons were so vociferous in defense of the "peculiar institution."

Northerners, on the other hand, were proud to be free laborers, and mass producers. The two cultures were so different that the Charleston Mercury said in 1858 that "the North and South ... are not only two peoples, but they are rival, hostile Peoples."

For Lincoln, the issue was not cultural or economic but constitutional. He ticked off facts to his Cooper Union audience: 23 of the 39 men who signed the Constitution registered votes reflecting their belief that slavery should be federally regulated, and eventually extinct. George Washington himself said, "There is no man living who wishes more sincerely than I do to see a plan adopted for the abolition of it." In seeking to contain the spread of slavery, Lincoln implied, he was simply following the path laid down by the Founders.

His voice mellowed and his eyes brightened. When he made an important point, he jabbed a long finger in the air, as if to "dot his ideas on the minds of his hearers." He mocked Douglas and rebuked those Southerners who would "rule or ruin" through their threats to secede. In a soaring conclusion, Lincoln contended that if slavery was wrong, no expediency could justify its spread. "Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it!"

Applause broke over him. New York's largest papers all carried the full text of his words — Lincoln made sure they had copies. In just 90 minutes, he had made himself a formidable candidate.

A month later, the Democratic convention was held in Charleston, S.C. It proved to be an unfortunate site for Douglas, who was struggling to hold together a badly riven party. The Little Giant was doomed by the location. The Deep South saw his compromises as too weak in protecting of slavery. Alabama delegates called him "a dodger, double tongued," and derided him as a "bob-tailed pony from Illinois." Delegates from seven Southern states walked out when they lost a bid to have the party platform include federal protection of slavery.

With the party impossibly split, Northern Democrats reconvened in Baltimore in June and nominated Douglas. The Southern bolters convened a "rump" convention in Richmond. They adopted a "Southern rights" platform and nominated John Breckinridge of Kentucky, the handsome young sitting vice president. Breckinridge, a reluctant candidate pushed forward by the fire-eaters, understood he was strictly a sectional choice. "I trust I have the courage to lead a forlorn hope," he wrote.

In contrast, the Republicans presented a united front when they convened in Chicago on May 16. On the floor of the Wigwam, an immense convention center built for the occasion, thousands of black stovepipe hats waved, making "a black, mighty swarm — flying with the velocity of hornets over a mass of human heads," wrote a correspondent. Though the silken-mannered Seward remained the favorite to win the nomination, he was not invincible. He had denounced the South as backward, claimed there was a "higher law" than the Constitution that justified slavery's removal, and warned of an "irrepressible conflict." He thus came off as both radical and negative.

Lincoln's handlers, led by Illinois Judge David Davis, steadily undermined Seward. They conducted a brilliant propaganda campaign, the emblem of which was the split rail paraded by supporters, which Lincoln purportedly had hewn himself. Lincoln didn't have Seward's reputation as an extremist, or other flaws either. He seemed to personify the new Republican platform, which emphasized self-making and upward mobility. It called for protective tariffs, the opening of federal land for homesteads, and federal sponsorship of a transcontinental railroad. The platform opposed the extension of slavery but left existing slave owners alone, and condemned Brown's Harpers Ferry raid. For Republicans, Lincoln emerged as the voice of the middle.

Lincoln's operatives labored all night persuading delegates and striking deals. "Make no contracts that will bind me," Lincoln had instructed. Davis ignored the directive. "Lincoln ain't here," he said.

Seward gained a plurality on the first ballot but lacked the 233 votes needed to be nominated. On the second ballot, Lincoln gained New Hampshire, then all of Vermont. There was a sudden stricken quiet in the Seward camp. Then several Pennsylvania delegates went for Lincoln. On the third ballot, the wave crested. A delegate from Ohio rose and cleared his throat, and for a moment the Wigwam lapsed into near silence. "I rise, Mr. Chairman, to announce the change of four votes of Ohio from Mr. (Salmon) Chase to Mr. Lincoln." As Lincoln went over the top, bedlam broke out.

The general election would be anticlimactic. Joining the fragmented field was another third-party candidate, the impeccably conservative John Bell of Tennessee. Electoral math all but predetermined the outcome: Lincoln would win. His victory seemed so safe, in fact, that he did not deliver a single speech; his Cooper Union address remained his most significant words of the campaign.

By October, even the indefatigable Douglas conceded defeat. "Lincoln is the next President," he said. "We must try to save the Union. I will go South." The Little Giant spent the last months of 1860 traveling across the South, giving two or three speeches a day against the breakup of the government. He was slurred, pelted with eggs and threatened with death.

On Election Day, Lincoln sank into an armchair in the Springfield State House to await the results. About 9 p.m., he walked to the telegraph office as the decisive returns spat out rapidly. Lincoln carried just 39.8 percent of the popular vote and did not gain a single elector in the South. But he carried 18 of 33 states, all of the free states except New Jersey, for an overwhelming margin in the electoral college, with 180 of 303 possible votes, to just 72 for Breckinridge. Douglas carried only Missouri.

Fifty-four days later, on Dec. 20, 1860, South Carolina seceded.


The information and quotations in this article were taken from: "Battle Cry of Freedom," by James McPherson; "Lincoln at Cooper Union: The Speech That Made Abraham Lincoln President," by Harold Holzer; "The Emergence of Lincoln: Prologue to Civil War, 1859-1861," by Allan C. Nevins; "The Civil War Archive, The History of the Civil War in Documents," edited by Henry Steele Commager; "Three Against Lincoln: Murat Halstead Reports the Caucuses of 1860," edited by William B. Hesseltine; and "Herndon's Lincoln: The True Story of a Great Life," by William H. Herndon and Jesse William Weik.


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