|HER WORLD||Sunday, July 7, 2002, Chandigarh, India|
motherhood: the gain and the pain
with a woman CM, Bihar is lowest in equality index
motherhood: the gain and the pain
WHEN Phoebe (actress Lisa Kudrow) of the much-acclaimed television serial, ‘Friends’, decided to offer her services as a surrogate mother, many thought that she was crazy. Closer home, the mainstream film, ‘Filhaal’, which explored the subject with a measure of sensitivity, flopped at the box-office.
Surreal as it may seem, couples worldwide are increasingly seeing surrogacy as a viable option to bear genetically related children.
"In India, it is estimated that approximately 15 to 20 per cent couples suffer from infertility," says Dr Anoop Kumar Gupta, Medical Director and Infertility Specialist of the Delhi In-Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) Centre. "The figure is on the increase due to increased urbanisation, pollution, stress, a competitive work environment and a fast-paced lifestyle, "he adds.
There are many manifestations of infertility in both the female and male, partner but couples usually seek IVF surrogacy when the woman is unable to carry a baby to term. The procedure was originally used for women with blocked fallopian tubes. Now, it is used as solution to many other problems like uterine abnormalities, uterine scarring or the inability to develop a thick supportive uterine lining, poor health conditions that make carrying a pregnancy risky and immunological abnormalities that may cause a woman to repeatedly reject a pregnancy.
In IVF surrogacy, a woman’s ovum is fertilised in-vitro, or outside the human body in a test-tube. The embryo is then transplanted into the uterus of the surrogate mother and after birth, the child is surrendered to the ovum donor or the genetically related parents. This procedure of utilising IVF has been termed "full" surrogacy since the commissioning parents may have provided all the genetic material for the child. The entire process can cost Rs 70,000 or more depending on the case.
For most surrogate motherhood contracts, the woman who bears the child is not supposed to foster a relationship with the child after birth, so that the child only gets to know its nurturing parents and not the surrogate mother. "The problem in this procedure is that a mother naturally bonds with the child during pregnancy, and giving up the child is often hard, "says Dr M. Gouri Devi, an infertility specialist.
In some cases, if the surrogate mother happens to be the mother of the ovum donor, this process may be easier to tackle. "Even if the mother of the infertile woman is in her post-menopausal stage, after checking her health and fertility capabilities, we menstruate her artificially for surrogacy," says Gupta.
IVF surrogacy is yet to gain ground in India with only an estimated 0.05 per cent of the infertile population in the country going in for this procedure. The Delhi IVF Centre, which claims to be performing half the surrogacy cases in the Capital, has undertaken only five such cases over the past eight years.
The fact that surrogacy is still in its infancy also means that there are few guidelines monitoring its use. "Surrogacy has deep social implications, but there are no formal legislations," says Dr. Subramanian, a senior Urology and Andrology consultant with the Indraprastha Apollo Hospital. The hospital does not perform surrogacy cases due to lack of legal guidelines in the country.
"Not many women are eager to lend their uterus. Only close relatives like mothers, sisters or even sisters-in-law of the woman are seen to have come forward in India," explains Gupta. "Since there is no formal legislation we do not allow commercial practice of surrogacy as it happens in the West," he explains.
The need for guidelines and legislation on the subject is obvious, given that surrogate motherhood has been a controversial practice worldwide. And more so, since the widely publicised ‘Baby M’ case in 1986 in New Jersey, when surrogate mother Mary Beth Whitehead fought an unsuccessful court battle for the custody of the child she was paid to bear for another couple.
The commercial gain in a surrogacy arrangement is not reason enough to ignore the psychological and emotional upheaval the process involves. While in India, the couple only has to sign a small contract, in many countries where surrogacy is an accepted procedure, the couple, as well as the surrogate mother, have to undergo extensive counselling. This is an extremely important consideration as it gives everyone an opportunity to discuss vital and sensitive issues. A psychological clearance letter must be on file for everyone before the cycle can begin.
In these countries, the parties also need to meet with a legal counsel to draw up the necessary contracts. The surrogate and the intended parents need to meet with separate attorneys for proper representation and a legal clearance letter is needed before the start of the cycle.
India, too, is in the
process of enacting legislation for surrogacy. The Indian Association
for Human Reproduction and the Federation of Obstetric and
Gynaecological Societies of India (FOGSI) are in the process of
formulating some recommendations for legislation. WFS
with a woman CM, Bihar is
lowest in equality index
AT a time when Kalpana Chawla, a US astronaut of Indian origin, is preparing for her second trip to space — no mean achievement this — there are women in Asia and Africa who suffer unmentionable grief and cruel death because the social fabric around them is too tough and intolerant. No words are strong enough to condemn atrocities perpetrated on women either due to traditional norms or domestic violence. Sometimes even governments forget that women’s welfare projects need funds to function, and function effectively.
A recent Nigerian documentary film focused on female circumcision and its brutality. In one harrowing scene, a screaming young bride is spread-eagled and pinioned by five hefty women and mutilated. Stella Omorogie, a well-known Nigerian traditional female circumciser is shown at one point in the film as wielding a sharp knife and other crude and unsterilised instruments of her trade. She is the protagonist of the documentary film entitled "Uncut: Playing With Life".
Media reports say in another scene of the film Omorogie is seen excising the female genitals of an eight-day-old baby, a scene which angered and revolted the audience, moving many to tears. Our job is just to cut (the genitals) and collect the money, the 50-year-old witch doctor says, though in real life, she has been persuaded to give up her trade and now lives in Benin city, working in an ice cream factory.
Her story is the most striking strand of a film campaigning for the eradication of a practice that doctors say causes lasting psychological trauma, extreme pain, chronic infections, bleeding, abscesses, tumours, urinary tract infections and infertility. Female genital mutilation is a tradition and a health problem in at least 28 African countries.
On the eve of International Women’s Day, the UN International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) had stated: Every minute of every day, a woman dies in pregnancy or child birth. It is unacceptable that in the year 2002, so many women die in the basic act of giving life. UNICEF Director Carol Bellamy said it was estimated that 5,15,000 women died every year in pregnancy or childbirth, almost all of them in developing countries. The probability of dying in child birth in a developed country is one in 4,100, but in a developing nation, it is one in every 13. According to UNICEF, political commitment and the resources that follow, have just not developed on this issue. We have to see that as part of a broader tableau of discrimination against women.
In India, the status of women is no better, to put it mildly. Women in Maharashtra seem to be either battered or going up in flames. Death by burning tops the list of crimes against women in the state. Bihar and Uttar Pradesh suffer from the worst gender in equality in India although one of them is ruled by a woman while the other has twice seen a woman at its helm, India’s first human development report says.
The Maharashtra study of domestic violence carried out by Dr Achala Daga, Head of Preventive and Social Medicine at J.J. Hospital, Mumbai, revealed that due to under-reporting, official figures do not represent the real scenario of domestic violence. Dr Daga’s study conducted for three years at J.J. Hospital, revealed shocking truths about the state of Indian homes. Of the 2,276 women studies, 537 admitted to having been assaulted by their own family members, while it was strongly suspected that another 528 women were also assaulted by their family members. Out of these, 484 suffered burns. Assault by blunt instruments and physical violence are also common.
Dr Daga, in her report to the media, said the hospital authorities found patients explaining the burns away due to stove burst, but since a majority of these cases come between midnight and 5 a.m., it is unlikely that the women could have been cooking. The injuries themselves tell their own tale — the women are either dripping with kerosene or had fractured limbs. Most women were in the age group of 24 to 45. Most women do not want to go to a shelter. Although they were offered free legal help, they never opted for it as they were concerned about the security of their children.
The first human development index indicates that Bihar, ruled by Chief Minister Rabri Devi, is at the bottom in a scale of gender disparities and development of the fairer sex. The factor has been measured in terms of the Gender Equality Index. The report, released by Prime Minister Vajpayee in April this year, has Bihar witness a widening gap between the status of men and women. Uttar Pradesh, which was ruled twice by Ms Mayawati, follows closely with its poor record of gender equality. And that was an official, above board report of the condition of the weaker sex.
The recent, prolonged communal riots in Gujarat have once again underscored the fact that women are the worst sufferers in any acute law and order situation. Even the ‘pro-BJP’ National Commission for Women team that went to Gujarat long after the carnage began and gave the most watered down report of the atrocities there had to admit that the state machinery, specially the police did not discharge its duties effectively. The police force, consists mainly of denizens of the masculine gender and are very often accused of misusing their "power" and position. The women of Gujarat have complained of extreme violence, including cases of sexual assault. Many have lost their family members, their homes, livelihood and their dignity, the NCW report states.
It also notes that the
confidence of women in the police authorities has been eroded with
many FIRs relating to violence, arson and other crimes against women
not being registered or not being registered accurately. Clearly,
making life easy, honourable and safe for women is a steep, uphill
TEN years ago, I got married to a young army Captain and as such wedded the ideals, traditions and norms of this vast and prestigious organisation that is an institution of life in itself. My experience are perhaps that of every second lady in the army but the very similarity of our circumstances is what binds us together in shared kinship. We become part of one big fraternity of the Indian Army wives.
Indeed, the wife of an Indian Army officer is strong and dynamic. She keeps an enviable house, runs an efficient household, often singlehandedly brings up children, copes with frequent separations, and is always on the move physically and intellectually facing new challenges each day.
This multi-faceted personality of the army wife was unveiled to me phase-by-phase as I personally experienced it. The first year of marriage was dream-like I was welcomed as a bride in the unit. There was a wonderful round of dinner parties at the unit officers’ houses. I set up home for the first time and started returning the dinners — a nervous cook and hostess the first couple of times but improving in confidence with every meal I hosted, thanks to the example of housewives around whom I tried to emulate. I watched and learnt from the ladies of the unit and tried to mould myself accordingly. Everybody was encouraging and appreciative and as eager to share tips and information as I was to learn from them. I learnt the perfect art of entertaining, from adorning tables with flower arrangements to exotic cuisine.
Then life took a turn and after a year of togetherness, my husband got along his posting to the newly raised Rashtriya Rifles. He moved to the Valley and I packed and moved back to Chandigarh, the home of my parents and in-laws. Now I experienced what life meant to an officer’s wife during a field posting. I spent a few months adjusting once again to living in a joint family. Being in the family way, I went for my routine check-ups to the Command Hospital with my father or father-in-law. I met a lot of young ladies sailing in the same boat as me.
Then tragedy struck and I had a miscarriage. The world seemed to collapse around me as shock, distress and disbelief set in. My husband’s leave got extended to full two months. I saw my immediate family share our sorrow and even my bigger family joined in. Letters poured in from all unit officers and ladies — both, from the parent unit and the RR unit and they grieved with us. Clearly, the out-of-sight-and-out-of-mind maxim is unheard of in the Army.
When my husband’s leave ended, he returned to his unit and all of a sudden, I was left to cope with life on my own. Still raw with the loss of our first one, I picked up a job. I learnt driving, volunteered to run errands for the family and began to pick up the threads of life again. I realised that there must be such times in all army wives lives when they were left to face good things and bad on their own and I am no exception. Everything the army taught us was for such a day — to stand strong and upright in the face of adversity and not be a weak person, a liability, a source of worry for a husband far away, performing his duty in difficult and dangerous circumstances. Isn’t that what we motivated our soldiers’ wives to be?
Today, I am the mother of two wonderful children, have seen togetherness and separation; coped with the second field posting with greater confidence and competence than the first and am mentally prepared for a third one when it comes. In the meantime, I have taken a few years off from teaching to bring up my kids during their first few formative years and imbibe in them the values so essential to our role as responsible parents, very often having to be the mother and father both!
Life in the Army has revealed to me my strength as a woman, has taught me to overcome my weaknesses and not just exist but live life meaningfully.
Each day is a challenge as
I try to become everything an army wife aims to be — a strong person,
a caring human being, a good mother, a supportive wife, a gracious
hostess, an efficient housewife, all of it leading ultimately to
becoming a complete woman. In fact, being a complete woman is what the
Indian Army wife is all about.
A decade after the celebrated maxi-trials of mafia mobsters put many of southern Italy’s leading gangsters behind bars, organised crime in the country is taking on a feminine face.
On May, 26 three women were killed and five wounded in an all-woman mafia shootout in the mountain village of Lauro, east of Naples, indicating that women are showing the same penchant for violence and vendettas as their menfolk in the Italian badlands.
Those gunned down were: Michelina Cava, 51, sister of Biagio Cava, head of the Cava clan of the Camorra, the feared Neapolitan mafia; Michelina’s 53-year-old sister-in-law Maria Schibelli; and Clarissa Cava, just 16, the boss’s daughter. The killers were members of the arch-rival Graziano clan.
The gunbattle erupted a day after a fight had broken out in a local beauty parlour.
"The code of honour of the mafia as a male, protective thing has always been a bit of a myth," says Umberto Santino, president of the Palermo-based Giuseppe Impastato mafia research centre. "Women and children have always been victims of their violence. These are criminal organisations and they don’t discriminate.
The Graziano and Cava families have been at war for 50 years and this was the latest in a series of vendettas that have spawned dozens of killings. The dead Cava women were themselves armed with knives and scissors and the young Clarissa was said by the police to have been carrying an acid phial.
Those wounded include the Graziano clan’s 67-year-old leader Luigi Graziano, who was travelling in a car with the Graziano women. Nine members of the Graziano clan have been arrested for the murders, including Antonio Mazzochi, a policeman married to a clan member, and four women — among them a 62-year-old grandmother.
What has been dubbed the Lauro massacre has caused tremors in Italy. It is seen as heralding the return of the bloody vendettas between rival gangsters, once commonplace in the south.
More worryingly, it has also placed women firmly on the map of mafia killings — both as instigators of the violence and as targets of vendettas.
When it comes to breaking the glass ceiling in organised crime syndicates, the Camorra of Naples — whose roots go back 200 years, making it older than the Sicilian Cosa Nostra — are well ahead of their southern cousins.
According to the Camorra Observatory, a Naples-based wing of the local state security services, 59 per cent of the women affiliated with the Camorra clans are directly involved in their activities.
"Investigators have always underestimated the role of the women in the Camorra," said Observatory president, sociologist Amato Lamberti. "We shouldn’t wonder at the sight of the women holding the shot gun and firing. For at least 30 years, women have been taking power inside these criminal organisations."
Indeed, the Camorra spawned one of Italy’s most notorious female criminals, Pupetta Moresca, who became famous in 1955 after she personally avenged the murder of her husband. Her life was turned into a film in 1988 with the starring role played by Alessandra Mussolini, the daughter of the wartime Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, who himself was an arch foe of the mafia.
There were other isolated cases of famous female Camorra such as Celeste Giuliano, better known as Celeste di Forcella, after the district in Naples where she controlled the heroin trade and other gangster activities following the death of her brothers. After her arrest in 2000 at the age of 45, the bottle-bleached Celeste made a notorious last request to the police — she wanted to go to the hairdressers and be allowed to put on a leopard skin outfit.
Women have been able to move up the ranks in the Camorra faster than the Sicilian Cosa Nostra because it is more of an urban organisation, which started life in gambling and gaming before moving into the world of drugs and public building contracts.
In rural Sicily, where Catholic traditions are stronger, women are more hidebound by traditional mores regarding the sexes.
But even in Sicily, women have always been more than the glamorous wives, moralistic mothers or amorous mistresses of mafia bosses as portrayed in Hollywood films like The Godfather.
And as such, they have
also been vulnerable to vendetta violence. — Gemini News