The temple was briefly shut down for a ‘purification ritual’ following the announcement of the women entering [File: Sivaram V/Reuters]
by Zeenat Saberin
New Delhi, India – Two women in India’s southern Kerala state
have breached a centuries-old ban on entering an ancient Hindu
temple, despite strong protests by right-wing conservative
Bindu and Kanakadurga, who were in their forties, walked into
the Sabarimala Temple at 3:45am on Wednesday, according to the
ANI news agency.
The temple had been closed off to women of menstruating age
until India’s Supreme Court overturned the ban in September.
However, opponents of the ruling continued to block women
between the ages of 10 and 50 from entering the shrine.
“Today, two women entered Sabarimala Temple. We had issued
standing orders to police to provide all possible protection
to any woman who wants to enter the temple,” Chief Minister
Pinarayi Vijayan told reporters in Kerala’s capital city,
A video posted online by ANI showed the two women, clothed in
black, hurriedly walking into the temple. They offered prayers
there, ANI said.
The temple was briefly shut down following the move for a
“purification ritual” by priests.
According to the Sabarimala temple’s website, women of
menstruating age were not allowed to enter the shrine because
its deity, Lord Ayyappa, was celibate.
Since the top court’s verdict, Hindu hardliners, opposed to
the decision, have attacked female pilgrims, threatened
journalists and pelted police with stones.
On Tuesday, tens of thousands of women in Kerala formed a 620
-km human chain “in support of gender equality” from Kasargod
in the north to the capital, Trivandrum.
Manithi Selvi, who attempted to enter Sabarimala last month
but had to back down after being hounded by violent
protesters, hailed the two women’s entry to Sabarimala as a
“This is a massive victory for the women of India. These two
women have protected India’s constitutional rights and smashed
the walls of patriarchy. But this is only the first step, we
need to guard our rights in the family, in the home, in the
workplace,” Selvi told Al Jazeera.
“Those who have tried to purify the temple today after the
women entered are standing against the constitution of this
country. We have to reject these ideas,” she added.
Bindu, one of the women who entered the temple on Wednesday,
was threatened by right-wing protesters earlier and her house
was vandalised, according to Selvi.
Conservative Hindu groups said they will continue to oppose
women entering the temple.
“The temple has now been closed for cleaning ritual following
this incident where the women forcefully entered the temple.
We will definitely go back to the top court to fight this
battle out. It’s not over yet and we will win,” Rahul Easwar,
president of the Ayyappa Dharma Sena (Ayyappa Religious Army),
that claims to protect the interests of the Lord Ayyappa told
KK Shailaja, minister for social justice in Kerala, said her
government stands for “gender equality”. She had also
participated in the “women’s human wall” on Tuesday.
“We are upholding the top court orders and our government here
will continue to strongly back all women. We stand for gender
equality. Those saying that women are impure should be ashamed
of themselves. How can they say women are impure in front of
God?” Shailaja said.
“There is no logical reason to stop women from entering any
temple,” she said.
The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has backed
the anti-women protesters despite the court order, in what
critics say is a move to fan Hindu religious sentiment to make
inroads into the region.
Menstruation is rarely discussed openly in India and menstrual
blood is considered impure by many communities.
Across cities and towns, menstruating girls and women are not
allowed to prepare food, enter a temple or touch an idol.
An estimated one million Hindu pilgrims travel to the
Sabarimala temple in the southern state of Kerala annually.
Sr. Regina Kuizon, Good Shepherd Philippines-Japan province leader leads the signing of pledge against violence against women. (Ma. Ceres Doyo)
By Ma. Ceres P. Doyo
Wearing orange on the 25th of every month is a practice followed by a number of sisters and staff of the Religious of the Good Shepherd, Province of the Philippines-Japan. But on Nov. 25, Good Shepherd-run institutions and centers in the Philippines were especially ablaze in orange to commemorate the start of the 18-day anti-violence against women campaign in keeping with the United Nations’ “Orange Day” campaign to raise awareness and prevent violence against women and girls.
Sr. Regina Kuizon, province leader, led the signing of the commitment to end violence against women. Among the signatories were the sisters and those who work with them in various apostolates.
Programs were held in three Good Shepherd-run schools as well as centers that cater to women and girls.
Began in 2013, the U.N. campaign picked the 25th of every month as “Orange Your Day” and Nov. 25 as the start of the 16-day campaign. Around the globe, demonstrators came out in support of the campaign. Tear gas was used against people gathered in Madrid, Spain, and Istanbul on Nov. 25. In Tel Aviv, 20,000 people rallied on Dec. 4, while a nationwide strike was observed with many employers allowing workers to participate.
In the Philippines, said Good Shepherd Sr. Añanita Borbon, the awareness campaign lasts for 18 days in keeping with the directive of the Philippine Commission on Women. The Philippine campaign will last from Nov. 25 to Dec. 12.
“One out of four women aged 15-49 [24.4 percent] has experienced physical, sexual or emotional violence committed by their husbands or partners according to the 2019 National Demographic and Health Survey conducted by the Philippine Statistics Authority,” the commission said Nov. 24 in a statement.
Women’s groups, church women among them, have denounced the Philippines’ current President Rodrigo Duterte for continually exhibiting misogynist, anti-women tendencies with his pronouncements and actions.
These women groups continually show vigilance through statements and active protests and online presence.
Borbon, a provincial councilor of the Good Shepherd Sisters Philippines-Japan, heads the sisters’ Ministry Center located at their main compound in Quezon City, Metro Manila. In the compound besides the Good Shepherd Provincialate are other centers with services for women and girls, among them, the Ruhama Center for trafficked and prostituted women.
The Heart of Mary Villa helps expectant mothers, mostly either unwed or abused, in the adoption process as an option after giving birth or how to move on with their lives as single mothers. The Center for Overseas Workers gives seminars and counseling to foreign-bound overseas Filipino workers and returning ones who are in crisis.
In Cavite, south of Metro Manila, the sisters run Bukid Kabataan (Children’s Farm) for abused and former street children. In Davao City in Southern Philippines, the sisters help former women entertainers in Japan, many of whom performed in nightclubs, who had children with their Japanese partners but who returned home after they were abandoned or separated.
So the monthly “Orange Your Day” and the annual 18-day campaign against violence against women come naturally to the Good Shepherd Sisters in the Philippines. “We learned that similar anti-VAW events were held in Good Shepherd missions in Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia-Singapore,” Borbon said. “We want to have bigger groups next time.”
The Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines, comprised of both men and women congregations, has an Office of Women and Gender Concerns that focuses mainly on raising gender awareness especially among religious formators. In May, a letter of support for Sr. Patricia Fox, the Australian missionary who had been the target of a deportation campaign by Duterte, was issued by the association on official letterhead. In that letter, the superiors also took issue with the tenor of violence against women by the Duterte administration, though not mentioning him by name.
“We again raise our voices in support of the missionary work of Sr. Patricia Fox and all religious who continue to work in the peripheries and all women who stand up against misogyny, chauvinism and the degradation of women,” the statement said. “We stand with women legislators speaking truth to power and yet dehumanized by men, we stand with women who oppose the creeping dictatorship in our midst, we stand with women who defend our democracy and the rule of law.”
Duterte has made anti-women statements, among them, ordering soldiers to shoot women rebels in their vaginas, saying he wished he had been first to rape an Australian missionary when he was mayor and, lately, threatening to slap International Criminal Court prosecutor Fatou Bensouda after he learned that she has started an investigation of the extrajudicial killings in the president’s bloody war against drugs.
Duterte said: “And that short lady there, the black, announcing investigation … if I see you I will slap you. Who are you to threaten me?”
Three women have been prominently in the news for Duterte’s open hostility toward them. Fox, of the Our Lady of Sion congregation, spent 27 years in the Philippines but was forced to leave; her visa was not renewed and she faced a deportation case against her. Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Maria Lourdes Sereno was impeached in May, and former justice secretary and now Senator Leila de Lima is in prison for alleged drug trafficking.
“Gender equality is more than a goal in itself. It is a precondition for meeting the challenge of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development and building good governance.”
All over the world, gender inequality makes and keeps women poor, depriving them of basic rights and opportunities for well-being.The root of this discrimination is in the way of considering women as nonexistent on their own as full human beings but as always attached to someone else: a daughter or a wife to someone.
In Africa, and in most patriarchal systems, women have been considered as entitled to no rights or to fewer rights than men. Popular beliefs in some cultures still consider them as having no right to own property in general and land in particular. If a woman hopes to someday inherit family property, the law may deprive her of an equal share, or social convention may simply favor her male relatives.
It is not uncommon in Africa to see a man take over a property of his deceased brother or uncle when the deceased has left descendants that are mainly or only girls. For many women therefore, access to land is not a guaranteed right and the consequences are even harsher for rural and unmarried or divorced women who cannot survive without land as it is their only source of income for themselves and their families.
Land is a very important natural resource and it is at the heart of human social activity in Africa. The inequalities in women’s rights to land affect their self-esteem and potential contribution to the welfare of the society; yet they are the primary producers of food, the ones in charge of working the earth, maintaining seed stores, harvesting fruit, obtaining water and safeguarding the harvest.
Many communities in African countries rely on subsistent farming as their source of livelihood. Women comprise on average of 43 per cent of the agricultural labour force in developing countries, and over 50 per cent in parts of Asia and Africa.Research from the International Food Policy Research Institute has found that equalizing women’s status would lower child malnutrition by 13 percent (13.4 million children) in South Asia and by 3 percent (1.7 million children) in Sub-Saharan Africa. Experimental work suggests that increasing resources controlled by women promotes increased agricultural productivity.It is therefore a paradox that only 20 per cent of landowners globally are women.
The majority of women in developing countries face situations of discrimination at the hand of the national authorities and the international community. The European Union recognizes “in words” that women’s equal access to land helps guarantee the respect of fundamental human rights, including the rights to adequate food, shelter, non-discrimination and equality; the right not to be evicted; and the right to effective remedy, etc.
However big companies from the same EU and other wealthy countries are responsible of various human rights violations affecting women particularly in depriving them from accessing and using their land. This happens in the conclusion of large-scale land deals for commercial agriculture. The main goal of investment in land becomes then about providing food and energy for wealthier countries using the land and water of the poor. It stands to reason therefore that large-scale land deals exacerbate poor conditions of women access to land and ownership or further limit poor rural women’s opportunities for income generation.
Women have a right to equal access to all avenues to end poverty. Gender justice is not only a matter of social equity, but is also central to poverty reduction. While it is an established fact that the socio-cultural context of Africa undermines women’s right and access to land for food production and livelihood; large scale land acquisitions that are promoted in the name of “rural development” are extinguishing a candle that was already weak.
In Africa, a woman is a string that binds the family together. Therefore, land deals that take resources away from women do not only reduce the welfare of women but also participate in the disruption of the entire family system. It becomes imperative for private and international investors in Africa, who conclude land deals with local governments to consider the right of women to the land as an integral and essential part of their social responsibility to the community.
Furthermore, if they are genuinely motivated by sustainable development of communities, the profits of their investments are shared with those who are deprived to make way for their investments. Finally, African national Governments urgently need to bridge gaps between their existing programs that target gender equality and how they are applied in reality. The end of poverty cannot be achieved without ending gender-based discrimination.
Kochi, India, Oct 23, 2018 / 12:00 am (CNA). – A priest who had been a key witness in the charge of rape against Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jullundur died Monday, prompting a police investigation into his death.
Father Kuriakose Kattuthara, 62, was found unconscious in his room on Oct. 22 at St Mary’s Church in Dasuya in Punjab, India. He had no visible signs of injury.
He was declared dead after being transported to a local hospital.
Kattuthara’s brother, Jose Kurian, expressed doubt about police reports that the priest might have succumbed to cardiac arrest.
“My brother had talked to me a week before the death. He had expressed fear that something may happen to him. We can’t believe the Punjab Police version that my brother had died due to cardiac arrest. He had no history of heart ailments,” Kurian told Firstpost.
The priest’s family petitioned for an autopsy and investigation. It was filed with the Alappuzha district superintendent of police, who forwarded it to Pinarayi Vijayan, Chief Minister.
The priest had testified against Bishop Mulakkal, who was been arrested on Sept. 21 for allegedly raping a nun for over a course of two years. The nun, who is a member of the Missionaries of Jesus, brought the accusation forward in June.
The priest provided testimony to police about the case several weeks ago. Local Catholics say that others who have testified against the bishop have faced threats of retaliation.
The nun said the abuse began in 2014 at her convent in Kuravilangad. The bishop has denied all accusations and was released on bail on October 15. He is awaiting trial.
Bishop Mulakkal told UCA News that the allegations were a retaliation against him because he acted against the nun’s sexual misconduct. He said she was having an affair with her cousin’s husband.
Three other women have accused the bishop of sexual misconduct. However, the Missionaries of Jesus’ superior general upholds the bishop’s innocence. The congregation is based in the Jullundur diocese, and Bishop Mulakkal is its patron.
“It’s clear if we want to face climate change, women and girls from all the world should be central actors”
MEXICO CITY, Feb 26 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Cities will be the battleground and women can be effective warriors on the frontlines in the fight against climate change, activists and leaders said on Monday.
Investing in the education and leadership of women and girls will provide a much-needed boost in efforts to slow global warming, said attendees at the Women4Climate conference organised by C40, a global alliance of cities, in Mexico City.
“For thousands of years we’ve been investing in the education of men, in the professional capacities of men, in their rise to positions of leadership and decisions,” Christiana Figueres, former head of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), told the group.
“We haven’t done this investment with women,” said Figueres, who now leads “Mission 2020,” a global initiative to lower greenhouse gas emissions.
The Women4Climate conference brought together mayors, business leaders and leaders working to curb climate change. It was the second such conference held since world leaders agreed in Paris in 2015 on a goal of slowing the rise in average global temperatures.
“It is clear the battle will be fought especially in urban areas,” said Patricia Espinosa, the current UNFCCC head.
“It’s clear if we want to face climate change, women and girls from all the world should be central actors,” she said. “We have little time left.”
Extreme weather related to climate change is hitting urban areas, said Salt Lake City, Utah Mayor Jackie Biskupski.
She said the western U.S. city is warming at double the global rate, affecting the snowfall it depends upon for water.
Rome’s Mayor Virginia Raggi said her city planned to ban diesel-fueled cars from its centre, plant thousands of trees and invest in zero-emissions buses.
“Cities can do a lot to make a difference on climate, but just like women, cities can’t be expected to change the world all by themselves,” said Andrea Reimer, a Vancouver, Canada city official.
(Reporting by Sophie Hares, Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, climate change, resilience, women’s rights, trafficking and property rights. Visit http://news.trust.org/)
The Thomson Reuters Foundation is reporting on resilience as part of its work on zilient.org, an online platform building a global network of people interested in resilience, in partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation.
Reporting by Rami Amichai and Mustafa Abu Ghaneyeh, Writing by Ori Lewis; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Peter Graff
October 8, 2017
October 8, 2017: JORDAN RIVER, West Bank (Reuters) – Thousands of Israeli and Palestinian women trekked through a biblical desert landscape on Sunday, converging on the shores of the Jordan River in a march for peace.
The women, many of them dressed in white, descended through the arid hills leading to the river, where they erected a “peace tent” named for Hagar and Sarah, scriptural mothers of Ishmael and Isaac, the half-brother patriarchs of Muslims and Jews.
“We are women from the right, the left, Jews and Arabs, from the cities and the periphery and we have decided that we will stop the next war,” said Marilyn Smadja, one of the founders of the organizing group, Women Wage Peace.
The organization was established after the 50-day Gaza war of 2014 when more than 2,100 Palestinians, mostly civilians, were killed. Israel put the number of its dead at 67 soldiers and six civilians.
Some 5,000 women participated in Sunday’s march, organizers said. It began last month at several locations across Israel and will culminate in a rally later in the day outside the Jerusalem residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
SANTIAGO, Aug 29 2017 (IPS) – “There are 33 million rural dwellers in Latin America who are still living in extreme poverty and can’t afford a good diet, clothes or education, and we are not going to help them move out of poverty if we use the same strategies that worked 20 years ago,” FAO regional representative Julio Berdegué told IPS.
Since 1990, rural poverty in the region was reduced from 65 per cent to 46 per cent, while extreme poverty fell from 40 per cent to below 27 per cent.
But while the proportion of rural extreme poor decreased by 1 percentage point a year between 1997 and 2007, the rate of decrease was only 0.2 per cent a year between 2007 and 2014.
To break that pattern in the most vulnerable rural group, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) are launching this last week of August in Santiago, Chile the “Alliance to end rural poverty in Latin America.”
“There is a strong deceleration in the reduction of poverty, five times slower than before, only just 0.2 per cent per year,” noted with concern Berdegué, who attributed the phenomenon, among other causes, to a regional economic slowdown which has had an impact on employment and incomes.
“The strong, sustainable, solid solution to rural poverty is economic development in rural areas. Quality jobs, better wages: that is the best strategy to reduce rural poverty,” said Berdegué, who is also FAO deputy director-general, in the body’s regional office in the Chilean capital.
For Berdegué, “social policies compensate for the effects of economic development, but what we want is for people to stop being poor because they have better jobs and not because of good social programmes…that is a second best option.”
In his interview with IPS, the Mexican senior U.N. official said the region has already done a great deal to reduce poverty and extreme poverty and what remains is to eradicate the most difficult part of poverty, harder to combat because it is structural.
He cited the example of Chile, where less than three per cent of the rural population suffer from extreme poverty, but the people affected are indigenous women in remote areas, which makes the task of rescuing them from deep poverty especially complicated.
According to Berdegué, the policies and programmes created and implemented in Latin America to eradicate poverty successfully served their purpose ,“but not necessarily the same strategies and same programmes are the ones that will work for us in the final push” of putting an end to hard-core, entrenched poverty.
Luiz Carlos Beduschi, a Brazilian academic and policy officer in the FAO regional office,pointed out to IPS that one of the most significant programmes to combat poverty in Nicaragua consisted of giving extremely poor people chickens, pigs or pregnant cows along with technical assistance.
Specific policies for women
“The same policies that help rural men move out of poverty don’t work for rural women,” said Julio Berdegué, who stressed that in the region “we have a generation of women with levels of education that their mothers never dreamed of.”
“We must soon achieve labour policies that allow these women to fully accede to formal employment. They are all working a lot, but on their farms or in unpaid, informal work,” he explained.
“These young rural women under 35 are going to stay on their farms producing food, but many of them are going to be employed in manufacturing and services, in nearby cities or in the rural communities themselves,” he added.
The FAO senior official stressed that “economic empowerment and autonomy are key, absolutely key, and this requires policies designed with a gender perspective. Without this, we are not going anywhere.”
Another thing that is essential, he added, is access to financing because “a poor woman farmer goes to ask for a loan and a poor male farmer goes, and the chances that the woman and the man get it are very different.”
“In all elements that are necessary for the development of family agriculture: access to markets, to technical assistance, land, etc, we need to multiply them by two, three or four in order to guarantee women equal opportunities,” he concluded.
“A woman from District 7, in the periurban area of Managua, discovered a dormant entrepreneurial potential. She was given a cow, and today, eight years later, she has 17 cows. Her oldest daughter left to study and graduated as a dentist. The woman sold three cows to finance a clinic (for her daughter) in the neighbourhood. She is now involved in the economic and social fabric of that area,” Beduschi said. Her second daughter is now studying medicine.
He added that the beneficiaries of this programme do not so much need advice as other elements such as credit at an interest rate lower than the 20 to 30 per cent offered by local creditors.
“We have to design a new plan for new times,” he concluded.
Launching the new Alliance
More than 25 experts, researchers and decision-makers are meeting Monday 28 and Tuesday 29 in Santiago, summoned by FAO and IFAD to seek new strategies and instruments to combat rural poverty.
In this new Alliance Launch Workshop, the participants are identifying and disseminating a politically viable and technically feasible package of proposals to be implemented by Latin American governments, for each country to face the challenge of ending rural poverty from an innovative perspective.
The activities of this initiative will be carried out from now until July 2019, and will count on FAO resources for the initial phase.
Berdegué said the first successful result of the Alliance was bringing together this group of experts with the commitment of “putting their shoulders to the wheel” in seeking innovative solutions to put an end to rural poverty.
“We want to release the 1.0 version of a proposal that we are going to offer to the countries. Not more of the same, because that has us at a five times slower rate. And we want to produce the first ideas, the best that we can, but we don’t want to spend the next six months writing documents. The best that we can, the sooner we can, and with those instruments we will go to the countries,” he said.
“The meeting will be a successful one if we come out of it with a very concrete working plan, detailed in such a way that the following week we can be going to the countries, as we have already started to do in Ecuador and Nicaragua,” he told IPS.
“We have a specific work agenda for collaboration to put these ideas into practice, with public programmes and policies,” he added.
Among the new tools that are being discussed in the world and in Latin America, Berdegué pointed out the concept of a universal basic income, which has its pros and cons, and is hotly debated.
There is also the issue of rural labour markets “which are in general in a state of true disaster, with high levels of informality and very low female participation rates, among them young women who have received 10 to 12 years of schooling and have no job offers in line with this human capital they have acquired.”
And a crucial issue in the new agenda, not taken into account in the past decades, is inequality.
“Many of these 33 million poor are poor because they are first victims of inequality. A rural indigenous woman, in a less developed area, is victim of more than four inequalities: gender, ethnicity, rural and territorial. Besides, economic inequality, on grounds of social class,” Berdegué said.
“Good quality employment, better wages, that is the best strategy for reducing rural poverty. And we have an accumulation of inequalities that, if we do not solve them, it will be very hard to return to the rate of one percentage point of reduction of rural extreme poverty,” he concluded.
Academics, as well as government officials and representatives of social organisations are taking part in the FAO and IFAD meeting, joining forces to think about how to keep on combating rural poverty with the goal of eradicating it.