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Editorials | Article | Middle | Oped | Reflections

EDITORIALS

Rajnath again
BJP yet to find a durable leader
T
HE election of Mr Rajnath Singh as President of the BJP for a full term of three years was a foregone conclusion. However, the unanimity seen at his election does not mean that the party is united under his leadership. Far from that, the circumstances under which he replaced Mr L.K. Advani as president a year ago remain more or less the same.

Not Gandhigiri
Sanjay guilty under the Arms Law
I
T was a long awaited verdict. And it has taken as many as 13 years for the TADA court to decide Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt’s alleged involvement in the 1993 Mumbai serial bomb blasts. The court has already convicted 86 people and acquitted 23 others in this case.

Wal-Mart lands in India
Retail trade is now open for FDI
Wal-Mart
has chosen the Sunil Mittal route to enter India. Hopefully, the Leftists will not oppose the new policy on foreign companies entering the retail sector now.






EARLIER STORIES

Maya in the soup
November 28, 2006
Dam of discord
November 27, 2006
Career in the military
November 26, 2006
SC snubs Modi
November 25, 2006
Hu’s advice
November 24, 2006
India, China move forward
November 23, 2006
Blasting peace
November 22, 2006
Tackling the big fish
November 21, 2006
Neglected lot
November 20, 2006
Scope of judiciary
November 19, 2006
The Senate nod
November 18, 2006
Fighting terrorism together
November 17, 2006
No diplomacy this
November 16, 2006


ARTICLE

India’s big power aspirations
Time to make use of the seas around
by Premvir Das
T
HE emerging security environment is now focused on Asia. Three of the four largest economies of the world in the next 15 years — China, Japan and India — will be Asian.

MIDDLE

Poor shoes
by Satish K. Sharma
A
certain first lady of the Philippines was not the only one to give shoes a bad name. Now a BJP MLA of MP has vowed to shun them till a hospital is constructed in his village.

OPED

Dialogue of the powerless
India doesn’t shine for them
by Charu Singh
A
rare platform for India’s voiceless and faceless millions emerged in the Capital recently, thanks to Tehelka newsweekly’s Summit of the Powerless. This was a major attempt to give voice to India’s downtrodden and is the first such annual event to show the reality behind the “new India” or the muck that hides behind the flaking plaster of “India shining”.

Why do we hit children?
by Susan Bitensky
T
HE ``horse whisperer,'' Monty Roberts, trains horses exclusively through nonviolent methods. We have the ``dog whisperer,'' Cesar Milan, as well. Although he does not renounce all physical force in training dogs, he has condemned hitting them. The appearance of these animal whisperers is a heartening testament to our evolving regard for other species and a growing repugnance toward violence.

Rape is rape, no matter when it begins
I
S it rape if a woman agrees to have sex, then changes her mind after the act has begun and tells the man to stop? Not in Maryland, no matter how clear it is that the woman has withdrawn her consent. According to a ruling last month by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, the state's intermediate appellate court, forcing a woman to continue to have sex against her will is not rape under common law and state court precedents.


 REFLECTIONS

 

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Rajnath again
BJP yet to find a durable leader

THE election of Mr Rajnath Singh as President of the BJP for a full term of three years was a foregone conclusion. However, the unanimity seen at his election does not mean that the party is united under his leadership. Far from that, the circumstances under which he replaced Mr L.K. Advani as president a year ago remain more or less the same. At that time he was seen as a stop-gap arrangement, i.e., before a charismatic leader could be found to lead the party. The gains the BJP achieved in the municipal elections in UP and some by-elections in Madhya Pradesh and Bihar have definitely fortified his position. Even so, his presidency is still viewed as an interim arrangement. There is a whole galaxy of younger leaders like Mr Arun Jaitly, Ms Sushma Swaraj and Mr Venkaiah Naidu who are keen to get into his shoes. Mr Advani may no longer be the blue-eyed boy of the RSS but that does not mean he has no hopes left in him. So is the case with Mr Murli Manohar Joshi, who said to be an Advani critic but closer to the RSS.

In his own state Mr Rajnath Singh has powerful leaders like Mr Kalyan Singh to contend with. And when it comes to providing leadership to the party in the 2009 elections to the Lok Sabha, he may also have to face challenge from someone like Mr Narendra Modi, who has been treating Gujarat as a laboratory for his dangerous ‘experiments with Hindutva’. For the present at least, Mr Rajnath Singh is assured of the RSS support as he is a strong votary of Hindutva. But such support can be a liability, particularly when he has to earn the goodwill of a majority of the people, who do not subscribe to the narrow worldview of the RSS. In fact, successive elections have proved that espousing causes dear to the RSS did not endear the BJP to the common people in most of the country.

Much will depend upon how Mr Rajnath Singh utilises the next three years to change the BJP. Negativism as manifest in the periodic boycott of Parliament sessions, opposing policies like the Indo-US nuclear deal and economic liberalisation just because they are mooted by the UPA government will not take the pre-eminent opposition party far. Similarly, trying to be more patriotic than other parties is unlikely to cut much ice with the people at large. What they expect from the BJP is espousal of policies that will improve the living conditions of the common people while opposing those policies of the government, which are not in the interest of the people.

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Not Gandhigiri
Sanjay guilty under the Arms Law

IT was a long awaited verdict. And it has taken as many as 13 years for the TADA court to decide Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt’s alleged involvement in the 1993 Mumbai serial bomb blasts. The court has already convicted 86 people and acquitted 23 others in this case. Even though Sanjay, his family members and innumerable well wishers can draw comfort from the fact that he has not been convicted under the draconian provisions of the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, his offence under the Arms Act is no less serious in nature and scope. Sanjay has been found guilty for keeping in his possession an AK-56 rifle, 9 mm pistol. Sanjay said he needed the firearm to protect himself and his family as they had received threatening calls during the 1992 Mumbai riots. He told the court that despite repeated complaints, the police did not give protection to his family. He had returned the other weapons to two arms suppliers after he heard about their involvement in the Mumbai blasts.

TADA court judge P.D. Kode accepted Sanjay’s confession that he kept the firearm only for self-defence. Accordingly, he absolved the actor from the conspiracy angle. However, he has convicted him under Sections 3 and 7 of the Arms Act. The judge has not pronounced the quantum of sentence. Having already served 18 months in the jail, Sanjay is entitled to deduction of sentence. It remains to be seen how much longer sentence he has to serve. The judge also let off Sanjay’s two friends from terrorism charges, but found them guilty for destroying the AK-56 rifle.

The 47-year-old actor has offered to surrender after the expiry of his bail on December 19. He will also go on appeal against his conviction in the Bombay High Court and the Supreme Court. Thus, the last word is yet to be said. Whether or not he wins the battle finally, Sanjay’s conviction should serve as an eye-opener to everyone, especially the high and the mighty of the film world which has often been the focus of Mumbai’s mafia. Sanjay has violated the law. And he cannot be set free only on account of his social status and goodwill. 

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Wal-Mart lands in India
Retail trade is now open for FDI

Wal-Mart has chosen the Sunil Mittal route to enter India. Hopefully, the Leftists will not oppose the new policy on foreign companies entering the retail sector now. The Left opposes FDI (foreign direct investment) in retail on two grounds: retail MNCs may drive local shopkeepers out of business and, secondly, as they would buy farms goods, farmers would get exploited. The way large malls and shopping complexes are coming up in the country, small traders are bound to face competition from large Indian companies like Reliance, Bharti and Pantaloon. How are they safe from local companies and in danger from foreign firms? Moreover, if single-brand foreign companies are allowed 51 per cent investment in retail, why keep out those like Wal-Mart with multi-brands?

Traders know how to change and cash in on emerging opportunities. If shopkeepers are in danger of losing out to competition, they, or the party that mostly represents them, the BJP, should be protesting, not the Leftists. Wal-Mart already has a procurement centre in India and plans to buy Indian goods worth $2 billion this year for its stores worldwide. Big companies often offer better prices to farmers and cheaper goods to consumers because of the economies of scale and worldwide procurement centres. Small buyers can be as exploitative as large ones. There is the government to protect farmers’ interests.

As for loss of jobs, if some avenues close, others open up. If radio mechanics are down, TV and computer technicians are up. According to one estimate, the retail sector alone can generate 10 to 15 million jobs in the coming three to five years. For upgrading retail infrastructure, the country needs huge investments. Local companies alone cannot meet the growing demand — within and outside the country. If India is to catch up with China in attracting FDI, it will have to discard policies that discourage foreign investment on one pretext or the other. Retail along with real estate and insurance offers huge potential for growth and employment and should be opened to FDI. 

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Thought for the day

The greatest happiness of the greatest number is the foundation of morals and legislation.
— Jeremy Bentham

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India’s big power aspirations
Time to make use of the seas around
by Premvir Das

THE emerging security environment is now focused on Asia. Three of the four largest economies of the world in the next 15 years — China, Japan and India — will be Asian. The immediate global concerns — rogue or failing states, radical Islamic terrorism, oil and its supply routes and proliferation of WMDs — are Asia-centric. In the long term, the energy-rich Central Asian republics and the only country which can emerge as a rival to US global interests, China, are Asian entities. American military presence across Asia, in addition to formidable capabilities which can be brought to bear from the sea, is, therefore, unlikely to go away in the foreseeable future.

Nearly half of the world’s seaborne commerce moves across the waters of the Indian Ocean; even more important, as much as 20 per cent of it is in the form of oil and gas. Consequently, countries outside these waters have a natural interest in the geopolitics of the Indian Ocean region. As much as 65 per cent of the world’s discovered oil reserves and 35 per cent of its gas are located in this region.

At the same time, the region suffers from serious vulnerabilities. The sea- lanes entering and exiting from these waters pass through several narrow passages making it possible for rogue states and non-state actors to interdict or disrupt shipping, thus jeopardising the safety of cargoes moving across some of the most important trade routes in the world. With some 60,000 ships transiting the waters of South-East Asia annually, effects of consequent disruption in the trade chain on the economic growth of most major economies are easy to visualise.

India’s own dependence on oil is not less. By 2020 more than 80 per cent of India’s energy needs would be imported, almost all of it by sea. Our own offshore oil assets are likely to be spread across 100,000 sq km in the next two decades, and the number of tankers coming to our ports annually is likely to double from 4000 in 2005 to 7500 in the next 15 years. Almost 95 per cent of India’s overseas trade moves through the medium of the sea.

Exports have doubled in the last three years, from $52 billion to $103 billion and are likely to increase by 25 per cent this year. Overseas trade, as a percentage of GDP, has increased from 17 per cent in 1995 to 26 per cent in 2005 and will reach 45 per cent by 2020. The safety of sea-lanes, the offshore areas, and of our ports is, therefore, becoming increasingly important to economic growth.

India’s enormous fisheries and seabed resources in its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of 2.2 million sq km are presently underexploited for want of adequate capability, which tempts transgressors from distant areas to come to fish in our waters. India also shares maritime proximity with four countries of South-East Asia — Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. While boundaries have been delineated with most of them, there are frequent instances of poaching and smuggling. Arms have been ferried to the east coast of Sri Lanka for use by LTTE terrorists from the Thai coast. Similarly, they have been taken up the coast through Myanmar and on to our north-eastern states. Another serious concern is the seaborne narcotics trade which is linked to the procurement of illegal arms and, consequently, to terrorism.

While geopolitical concerns, in which Pakistan and China continue to remain adversarial, cannot be ignored, non-traditional threats have now begun to add complexity to the security scenario at sea. In recent years, piracy has become more violent with the use of sophisticated weapons and equipment. Vessels have been hijacked for clandestine trade after the disposal of original cargoes or for smuggling of drugs and arms. The crime is transnational. Ships belong to one country are registered in another, crewed by people from several others and carry cargoes bound for destinations around the world. So, the security of regional waters is important, not just for those littoral to it but also for those well beyond.

As far as specific acts of maritime terrorism are concerned, a US warship was attacked by a suicide craft in Aden a few years ago and later a French oil-tanker off the coast of Yemen. Offshore oil terminals and tankers at Basra have been targeted. Other acts of greater severity can- not be ruled out. Maritime terrorism will not have the immediate visibility of carnage on land but has the potential to cause long-term economic damage.

Countries cannot cope with maritime terrorism by themselves. There is need for information sharing, for effective and stringent laws, for suitable organisations and capabilities and for coordination and cooperation at the national and regional levels. All this calls for close engagement with countries around us, those external to the region as well as those littoral to it. As the largest and most credible regional maritime power, India must assume a leadership role in creating the required environment of mutual trust and confidence at sea and provide assistance to those who need it. If India does not do this, someone else will.

The US is clearly the major player in the Indian Ocean. It has vital strategic interests in this region and deploys considerable maritime power to safeguard them. India shares some of these concerns, in particular, those pertaining to the fight against terrorism and the safety of seaborne commerce. This positive relationship, also extending to India’s interfaces with the UK, France, Australia and South Africa, must be further enhanced. The level of maritime interaction with Russia and Japan also has to be strengthened.

As far as littoral countries are concerned, India has important economic and security interests, and interactions with these countries through ship visits, an exchange of personnel and joint exercises must be used to enhance them. The gathering of ships hosted by the Navy every two years, under the name Milan, attracts participation from many regional navies. In 2004, regional countries saw immediate response from India’s military during the Tsunami disaster. Similar measures designed to foster trust and confidence, showing both capability and the will to help, must form an important element of the country’s maritime strategy.

The Indian Ocean is of strategic interest to India. As a big country with global power aspirations, it can- not shy away from influencing events in this important space. Its immediate security concerns stretch from the East African and Gulf coasts in the west to the waters of South-East Asia, including the Malacca Straits in the east. India’s maritime power must be able to operate credibly in this theatre. India’s armed forces must also have some expeditionary capability to cope with contingencies in peace as well as in war and for rendering meaningful assistance in the event of natural calamities such as the Tsunami.

Increasingly, India’s security concerns are going to be dominated by the imperatives of its economic growth and its maritime power will have to be the prime mover. The seas around it are India’s new strategic space. We must comprehend this reality and prepare ourselves to measure up to the responsibilities that this imposes upon us.

The writer is a former Commander-in-Chief of the Eastern Naval Command and Director-General, Defence, Planning Staff.

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Poor shoes
by Satish K. Sharma

A certain first lady of the Philippines was not the only one to give shoes a bad name. Now a BJP MLA of MP has vowed to shun them till a hospital is constructed in his village.

One wonders why we invoke poor footwear while lamenting about the unpleasant situations of life. From “quaking in your boots” to “getting the boot” and from “bootlicking” to “knowing where the shoe pinches” it’s all bad news — for the shoes and one who wears them. It gets worse if someone “puts the boot in”.

Even the accessories aren’t spared. Thus you have “on a shoestring” and “pull up socks”. How hurtful all this must be for the poor shoe? Well, you have to be in the shoes of a shoe to feel that.

Yet, outside of home they remain your most loyal companions (Inside, they are not allowed, especially if it is a Gujarati home). Just a speck of polish and they smarten up your appearance and add significant centimeters to your stature. Also, for a lady they come handy — well, you know when.

And what to talk of a gentleman, even tramps can’t do without them. Remember Charlie Chaplin’s larger than life-size shoes, or Raj Kapoor’s Japani joota? Though one wonders why he took a fancy to the Japanese shoe when its Chinese counterpart is better known. Perhaps the choice had to do more with rhyme than reason.

About the choice of shoes, I cared little until a colleague gave me a gem of footwear wisdom. “Comfort should be the guiding factor in choosing two things — type of bed and the type of shoes. For, you are in one or the other for most part of life”, he said.

That reminds me of another gem, a Haryanavi one. When a colleague saw his friend, from the land of milk and butter, donning a new pair of shoes, he asked, “Are they comfortable?”

“Oh, very comfortable. I feel as if I have my feet in ghee”, was the reply. A true Haryanavi, he couldn’t think of a better simile to convey his sense of ease.

In my old trunk of police academy days, lie mothballed an array of old uniform articles. Sometimes when I try out the tunic, shirts, trousers or the belt, they seem to rebel against all the flab that I have gathered over two decades. However, my old brown ankle boots still accept me, gladly, for what I am. Like true friends.

I put them on sometimes — to get back that youthful springiness in my feet.

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Dialogue of the powerless
India doesn’t shine for them
by Charu Singh

A rare platform for India’s voiceless and faceless millions emerged in the Capital recently, thanks to Tehelka newsweekly’s Summit of the Powerless. This was a major attempt to give voice to India’s downtrodden and is the first such annual event to show the reality behind the “new India” or the muck that hides behind the flaking plaster of “India shining”.

Tehelka’s message was literal: till the dirt is not cleared, nothing can shine. The message especially hit home with a rather difficult-to-digest documentary Vande Mataram - The Shit Version. This documentary by media activist R.P. Amudhan has become campaign material against manual scavenging and it shows the seamy side of life in India indepth.

Whether it is the low-caste sweepress cleaning filthy toilets, the washer woman at work, people scavenging on the roadside, they are ciphers in society today; they exist but are not heard. Tehelka’s attempt through this summit has been to bring to the forefront the unequal life that exists in India or the two Indias that exist together.

The Editor-in-Chief of Tehelka, Tarun Tejpal, informs candidly, “The story of two Indias is a very old one, but after 60 years of democracy it appears more vulgar by the day. Only a fool can imagine the problems are merely difficult; actually some seem almost intransigent: the ballooning population, crippling poverty, failing agriculture, growing grassroots militancy. And all of these to be negotiated and settled within the norms and decencies of a free state. Faced with such problems, most nations tend to try tinpot solutions. It is a tribute to India’s founding principles that we joust with them without taking any cataclysmic recourse.”

A galaxy of activists, grassroots workers, film-makers, creative artistes, writers and journalists and not-to-be-left-out politicians were present at the summit. Some distinguished names included Aruna Roy, a recipient of the Ramon Magsasay award for community leadership and currently president of the national slum-dwellers association; Anna Hazare one of India’s most noted social activists involved in rural development; Mihir Shah, secretary of the Samaj Pragati Sahayog, one of the nation’s largest grassroots initiatives for water and livelihood security; Vandana Shiva, the famous physicist, ecologist, author and activist; Ashish Kothari, founder member of Kalpavriksh, an environmental research and action group; and Prakash Amte, a pioneering social worker among the Madia Gond tribal population of central India. The list is endless. Many political figures like Sitaram Yechury, Arjun Singh and Farooq Abdullah were also present.

Charged discussions were organised on problematic issues very current in India today like “Reservations: inclusive merit or the death of merit?”. Participating in the discussion, Yogendra Yadav, a psephologist and senior fellow at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, points out that “I’m utterly disappointed with the so-called national debate on reservations and this disappointment is with both sides, both with the supporters and the critics. The disappointment is with the sheer insensitivity that we can bring to our discussions. Do we retain any sensitivity to the life conditions of people who live in the gutter? There is great insensitivity in evidence in the younger generation.”

Yadav reasoned that perhaps the only achievement of Mandal-2 has been that the entire debate on reservations has shifted from the why to how. The Editor of Dalit Voice, V.K. Rajashekhara, stressed emotionally, “we do not belong to India shining but to the India sinking category. Reservation is really about representation. The 15 per cent Brahmins ruling this country will not be allowed to rule India, we simply won’t let them.”

If the debate on reservations threatened to become stormy, the one on “Kashmir: External Hand or Internal Haemorrhage?” was no less exciting. Farooq Abdullah was equally fiery, declaring openly “the people of Jammu and Kashmir have been betrayed. What do you tell those people who do not get anything for nine months (due to the adverse climate) about India’s development, its nuclear power and most advanced Air Force?”

He stressed that they will feel the “development” only when they begin to get benefits from it. There can be no real peace in the valley until peace with Pakistan is achieved, he added.

Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan called for a rehaul of the judicial system which, he declared, was “unaccountable”. He elaborated: “Street vendors are ordered to move out so that people can shop in malls. Rickshaw-pullers in Chandni Chowk are ordered to be removed so that CNG buses can ply with ease and courts have issued numerous orders to bulldoze slums. Even the Delhi government’s pleas to give them more time to prepare a rehabilitation programme was not heard.” Bhushan warned that, “unless steps are taken, we will soon have an insurgency in the country when there would be bloodshed. The judiciary can proudly claim a role in speeding it up.”

Other issues touched at the summit were farmers’ suicides, urban India vs rural India and the positive model: stories of rural success. The speakers included social activists Prakash Amte, Father Thomas Kocherry and Ashish Kothari. Then there was a discussion on “equal education: excellence or prejudice?” and “the Indian state: protector or alienator?” in which Kapil Sibal, Arun Jaitely and Medha Patekar, among others, contributing passionately. The two other subjects of heated dialogue were: “Naxals: backlash of the fourth world?” and “North East: On the Map, off the Mind”.

Excerpts were shown from moving documentaries like Kavita Joshi’s “The Mother’s Protest”, Krishnendu Bose’s “Who Killed Ranga Reddy?”, Atul Gupta’s “Waiting”, which looks into disappearances and its politics in human lives, C Vanaja’s “Smarana”, a film on the agony of mothers who have lost their children in the Naxalite movement of Andhra Pradesh, and Ruzbeh N. Bharucha’s, “Yamuna Gently Weepa”, a film on the demolition of one of the biggest slums in the world. 

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Why do we hit children?
by Susan Bitensky

THE ``horse whisperer,'' Monty Roberts, trains horses exclusively through nonviolent methods. We have the ``dog whisperer,'' Cesar Milan, as well. Although he does not renounce all physical force in training dogs, he has condemned hitting them. The appearance of these animal whisperers is a heartening testament to our evolving regard for other species and a growing repugnance toward violence.

Yet, the phenomenon also raises a question. Where are the child whisperers?

Corporal punishment of children is violence too. It is, in essence, the infliction of physical force upon children with the intention of causing them pain so as to correct or punish their misbehavior.

In keeping with the advent of the animal whisperers and the values they represent, the United States appears to be on a little-noticed trajectory toward prohibiting corporal punishment of children.

Most states bar foster parents from resorting to this form of discipline. The laws applicable to other residential child-care settings are more of a hodgepodge, but most state laws prohibit such punishment in nonresidential facilities catering to children, like day care.

Well over half of the states outlaw physical chastisement of minors when detained or incarcerated by law enforcement. Moreover, our courts cannot sentence juvenile delinquents to flogging, whipping or any other physical retribution.

Progress in our country has also been made in eliminating the once ubiquitous paddle from public schools. Twenty-eight states ban corporal punishment of public schoolchildren, an increase of 26 states over the past 30 years.

It is only in the American family that legalized corporal punishment of children remains entrenched and unbudging.

The laws of 49 states give parents power to administer ``reasonable'' corporal punishment. The one standout is Minnesota, the statutes of which may be read to make these parental corporal punishers liable for criminal assault.

It seems that our nation is in transition and conflict when it comes to spanking children. It is a hot-button issue for many people, provoking understandable concerns about undercutting parental prerogatives and letting children run amok. Nevertheless, recent scientific literature clearly establishes that corporal punishment is correlated with weakening, not strengthening, the parent-child relationship, and with increased child aggression, delinquency and antisocial conduct, rather than with good conduct and an active conscience.

The scientific insights are also complemented by far-reaching legal reforms. Corporal punishment of children -- while still widely practiced around the globe -- has come to be absolutely forbidden by international human rights law. At least five treaties have been authoritatively construed to this effect, including two to which the United States is a party: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the U.N. Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Consistent with international law, at least 85 countries outlaw corporal punishment in schools. The United States and Australia are the sole industrialized nations where school personnel in some states or provinces may still hit children with impunity.

The trend toward outlawing parental corporal punishment has been much slower, but it is moving. Fifteen nations, mostly in Europe, have banned all corporal punishment of children, no matter by whom the rod is wielded or in what context. In short, entire national governments have become veritable child whisperers.

Our animal whisperers should inspire and perhaps embarrass Americans into taking measures that would enable full compliance with the mandates of international human rights law. It would not be the first time that solicitude for animals has led the way to protection for children.

In the latter part of the 19th century, New York law safeguarded animals from inhumane treatment -- but not children. Little Mary Ellen Wilson had been, by 1874, the victim of years of merciless physical abuse at the hands of her foster mother. It was the founder of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals who ultimately intervened to rescue her.

By arrangement with LA Times-Washington Post

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Rape is rape, no matter when it begins

IS it rape if a woman agrees to have sex, then changes her mind after the act has begun and tells the man to stop? Not in Maryland, no matter how clear it is that the woman has withdrawn her consent. According to a ruling last month by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, the state's intermediate appellate court, forcing a woman to continue to have sex against her will is not rape under common law and state court precedents. If this is a correct interpretation of the law, the law should be changed.

Perhaps the facts of the case produced this repugnant result. An 18-year-old Montgomery College (Md.) student gave a ride to Maouloud Baby, then 16, and his friend. The friend--who later pleaded guilty to rape in the incident--had sex with the young woman in the back seat of her car. Then Mr. Baby said it was his turn. “He was like, ‘I don't want to rape you,” the student testified. She said she felt as if she couldn't refuse and agreed to have intercourse “as long as he stops when I tell him to.” They began to have sex, she pushed him away and told him to stop, and, she testified, after “about five or so seconds,” he did. Mr. Baby was convicted of first-degree rape and sentenced to five years in prison.

This isn't the strongest set of facts for a rape conviction, and a new trial for Mr. Baby seems warranted. But what's troubling is that, in granting the new trial, the court found that once consent is given and penetration occurs, no set of facts, however egregious, could produce a rape conviction. The court said it was bound by a 1980 ruling in which the Court of Appeals found that ``ordinarily if (the woman) consents prior to penetration and withdraws the consent following penetration, there is no rape” — though that case involved the opposite situation, where the woman refused to agree to have sex but gave consent afterward.

Its conclusion, the court said, was further required by the common law understanding of rape, under which the crime is viewed as an infringement on the property rights of the woman's husband or father. The common law, the court said, “views the initial ‘de-flowering’of a woman as the real harm or insult ... after this initial infringement upon (her husband or father's) interest in a woman's sexual and reproductive functions, any further injury was considered to be less consequential. The damage was done.''

The real damage is done by this ruling, which promotes an offensively archaic view of women and is out of line with other states that have considered the question. Only one state court (North Carolina) has agreed with Maryland, seven state courts have found to the contrary, and Illinois has passed a statute making clear that consent can be withdrawn. The Court of Appeals or the legislature should overturn this decision.

By arrangement with LA Times-Washington Post

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God was true in the beginning. He was true throughout the ages. He is true even now and true for ever He shall be.
— Guru Nanak

God alone knows how great He is.
— Guru Nanak

God himself is the primal Truth, Beauty and Bliss Eternal.
— Guru Nanak

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