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Archive for June 7th, 2009

Hidden toll in India, China and sub-Saharan Africa

Posted by African Press International on June 7, 2009

Nicole Baute

In India, China and sub-Saharan Africa, millions upon millions of women are missing. They are not lost, but dead: victims of violence, discrimination and neglect.

A University of British Columbia economist is amongst those trying to find them not the women themselves, who are long gone, but their numbers and ages, which paint a sad and startling picture of gender discrimination in the developing world.

The term “missing women” was coined in 1990, when Indian economist Amartya Sen calculated a shocking figure.

In parts of Asia and Africa, he wrote in The New York Review of Books, 100 million women who should be alive are not, because of unequal access to medical care, food and social services.
These are excess deaths: women “missing” above and beyond natural mortality rates, compared to their male counterparts.

Women who are dead because their lives were undervalued.

Around the world boys outnumber girls at birth, but in countries where women and men receive equal care, women have proved hardier and more resistant to disease, and thus live longer.

In most of Asia and North Africa, however, Sen found that women die with startlingly higher frequency.

His research began a flutter of activity in academic circles and by 2005, the United Nations produced a much higher estimate for how many women could be “missing”: 200 million.

From her office at the University of British Columbia, economics professor Siwan Anderson has been crunching numbers to try and understand why so many women are dying.

“If you’re interested in gender discrimination, it’s really one of the starkest measures of discrimination, because it’s women who should be alive, but aren’t,” she says.

The 40-year-old researcher recently co-authored a paper with New York University’s Debraj Ray, focusing on figures from China, India and sub-Saharan Africa for the year 2000.

What they discovered flew in the face of existing literature and commonly held beliefs about the missing women phenomenon.

“Previously, people had thought that they (the missing women) were all at the very early stages of life, prenatal or just after, so before four years old,” Anderson says.

“But what we found is that the majority are actually later.”
Female infanticide has been endemic in India and China for some time, which she says led researchers to assume that it was the source of all the missing women. But the truth is much more complicated.

Once she and Ray broke down the numbers by age group, they found that the majority of excess female deaths came later in life: 66 per cent in India, 55 per cent in China and 83 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa.

One of their colleagues in the economics department at the University of British Columbia says this finding is striking, and points the way for future research and advocacy.

“Why would there be excess mortality of, let’s say, 45-year-old women versus 45-year-old men?” asks economics professor Kevin Milligan.

“And what they find is … they have the same set of diseases, they just seem to die more frequently.
The explanation that seems most consistent with that is differential access to health care. And so that’s a really striking finding.”

Anderson says that lack of health care is likely a big part of the problem, but that there are numerous cultural and social factors at play that can be difficult to pinpoint.

In their “elementary accounting exercise” published this February, Anderson and Ray began to plot the causes of excess death in 2000 by age group, and produced some interesting figures.

In sub-Saharan Africa, the dominant source of missing women was HIV and AIDS, the cause of more than 600,000 excess female deaths each year.

In China, Anderson says, most of the 141,000 excess female deaths by injury were suicides, making China the only place in the world where women are more likely than men to kill themselves, often by eating pesticides used for crops.

And in India, a category called “injuries” yielded ominously high figures: 86,000 excess deaths in the age group 15-29 in 2000 alone.

Anderson has done extensive research in India, and says the numbers beg the question of exactly how many deaths were so-called “kitchen fires” often used to mask dowry-related killings, the result of a new bride being tortured by her new family until her parents pay their debts.

Contrary to what you might expect, Anderson says, dowry prices have not dropped off with improvements in education in India.

Instead, they have gotten worse, with educated brides and their families willing to pay even more for high-quality grooms.

Anderson says dowry payments can be six times a family’s annual wealth an excruciating price, especially for poor villagers.

The implications of this hefty sum trickle down to the first moments of a child’s life.
While conducting recent field work in India, Anderson asked villagers about selective abortions and found them open about the fact that they use ultrasound to determine the baby’s gender and help them decide whether or not to keep it.

“They see no other options,” she says. “They really cannot afford to have a daughter.”

Future research will delve deeper, seeking answers to questions such as: How often are men given mosquito nets to protect themselves from malaria, but not women?

How many women die because they are not taken to the hospital when they are sick?

Anderson is using data gathered primarily from the World Bank, the United Nations and the World Health Organization, but admits that getting the figures can be a huge challenge.

In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, many deaths go undocumented, and in India, it is virtually impossible to know how many “unintentional” deaths are actually dowry killings, because they are not accurately reported to the authorities.

It is also difficult to separate direct gender discrimination from biological, social, environmental, behavioural and economic factors.

That will be part of the task as Anderson works on calculating missing women by region in India, and isolating gender discrimination from other factors that might contribute to uneven male-to-female ratios.

When asked what can be done to combat such deep-seated inequality, Anderson pauses.

Even when governments outlaw root causes, such as the Indian dowry system, violence persists, she says.
“It’s too embedded in the system in their world.”
source: Torstar News Service

send in by Catherine Mills

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Kenya: Backs down on police killings at UN hearing

Posted by African Press International on June 7, 2009

Geneva (Switzerland) – The team representing Kenya at a United Nations human rights hearing in Geneva on Wednesday dropped its plan to attack rapporteur Philip Alston and owned up to police killings. In a compromise hammered out in stormy negotiations late into the night on Tuesday and all of Wednesday morning, the delegation of five ministers and eight government officials surprisingly presented a joint statement.

In it, the PNU and ODM ministers agreed that some police officers had illegally killed suspects though not as part of a government-sanctioned policy and refrained from accusing Prof Alston of breaching the UN code. The delegation, led by Prof George Saitoti, however, rejected Prof Alstons demand that Attorney-General Amos Wako resigns and that Commissioner of Police Maj Gen Hussein Ali be sacked, saying the recommendations were beyond Prof Alstons mandate.

The delegation also promised the UN that human rights workers will not be harassed and expressed regret over the murders of Oscar Foundation officials. The delegation made up of Security minister George Saitoti, Justice minister Mutula Kilonzo, Attorney-General Amos Wako, Lands minister James Orengo and East African Cooperation minister Amason Kingi, which had gone to Geneva with totally different briefs, met late into the night on Tuesday.

They were negotiating whether to admit to illegal executions and whether to censure Special Rapporteur Philip Alston for allegedly going beyond his mandate and not following the UN code, which binds him to countercheck the information he received.

A member of the delegation said for the sake of consensus it was agreed that the Kenyan position be softened by not criticising Prof Alston, explaining the reforms the government was carrying out and an admission that there have been killings by rogue officers.

Prof Saitoti made what Nation Correspondent Osei Kofi described as a spirited and robust defence, a genuine mea culpa and a compelling show of the governments effort and preparedness to do the right thing. In a statement that Mr Kofi said went down well, the delegation acknowledged that there have been cases of unlawful killings by police and investigations into 53 of those cases had been carried out and completed and 81 officers prosecuted.

The Kenya government does not condone extrajudicial killings and there is no government policy sanctioning such violation of law, he said. Although a member of the Kenyan delegation said Prof Alston went to town on us, the UN official significantly softened his own criticism of Kenya and urged the UN to support the governments reform programme, including those affecting the police.

The session at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, which was scheduled to start at 11am (9am Geneva time) was pushed to 4.30pm (2.20pm in Geneva), mainly because discussions of other countries took longer. The delegation took advantage to refine a compromise. The joint defence took five minutes. Speaking from Geneva, Mr Kilonzo said they stayed up beyond 1am on Tuesday haggling over the common position to take before going to the meeting.

Mr Salim Lone, who accompanied the ODM contingent as an advisor, said the compromise showed that the coalition government was working well and was ready to compromise on matters that concern the country. Mr Orengo and Mr Kingi joined the rest of the team after Prime Minister Raila Odinga petitioned President Kibaki to send a delegation that reflects the political divide in the coalition.

Prof Alston urged the Kenyan coalition partners to use the same effort they had used to come up with a joint statement to deal with illegal killings. I hope that the herculean and admirable efforts of the coalition partners to craft a joint statement today presage a new era in Kenyas approach to extrajudicial killings, he said.

In his statement, Prof Alston began by acknowledging that the Kenyan government deserves full credit for having invited him into the country. He added that he viewed the presence of a large Kenyan delegation as proof of the vigorous debate on reform issues within the government and the society as a whole.

He praised members of the coalition government, including Mr Odinga, who had supported his findings. He added that while the PM condemned extrajudicial executions, President Kibaki was yet to do so. He, however, hit out at the police whom he said had remained a major stumbling block to the reform agenda.

He noted that the forces attitude is reflected in the views expressed earlier this week by Police Spokesman Eric Kiraithe, who was part of the government delegation to the Council. When he rose to present the joint position, Prof Saitoti said:

The government acknowledges there have been cases of unlawful killings within the police force in respect of which investigations into 53 cases have been completed and 81 officers have been prosecuted since the year 2000.

He differed with the UN Rapporteurs findings that police execution squads are sanctioned by the government. The Internal Security minister agreed that internal and external police oversight mechanisms were weak; that the police force standing orders were inadequate and that there was urgent need for an independent police commission.

The flaws, Prof Saitoti said, were being addressed by a task force on police reforms headed by retired judge Philip Ransley. In what appeared to be a tactic to pre-empt the findings of the Prof Alston, he said the weaknesses in the police force had already been identified by the government, which started addressing them under the Governance, Justice, Law and Order Sector (GJLOS) reform programme in 2003.

He said that the National Accord, which was signed to end the post-election violence and establish the Grand Coalition Government, upped the urgency and widened their scope. Prof Saitoti also told the sitting in Geneva that a whole set of reforms were underway and mentioned the Witness Protection Act, the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Act and the National Cohesion and Integration Act.

He said most of the recommendations of Prof Alston were constructive and useful and promised that they would be implemented. On Thursday, Mr Kilonzo will address the UNHRC session on human rights in Kenya. At the time of going to press, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights was on the floor, making its contribution.

A member of the technical team told the Nation that the contributions by the United Kingdom, Denmark, Norway and Switzerland were generally supportive.

source.The Nation (Kenya)

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LEBANON: Hassan Cherry, “There is a kind of HIV phobia in my country” We need positive leadership to fight stigma and discrimination in our society

Posted by African Press International on June 7, 2009

Photo: Keishamaza Rukikaire/IRIN
We need positive leadership to fight stigma and discrimination in our society”

NAIROBI, – Hassan Cherry, 28, an AIDS activist from Beirut, is one of only about 3,000 HIV-positive people in Lebanon. He talked to IRIN/PlusNews about the fear and ignorance that people living with HIV still face in his country.

“I found out about my own status in 2004 when I applied for a visa to travel to Kuwait, where I was planning to work as a journalist. Because I tested HIV-positive, I could not work in Kuwait, so I continued with my job as a journalist in Lebanon.

“My friends and family were very supportive, but I did not feel I could come out and tell everyone my status there is a kind of HIV phobia in my country.

“Most institutions do not accept people living with HIV as employees, and we do not qualify for health insurance. As you can see from my case, in the Arab world you cannot live and work as a foreigner if you are HIV-positive; it’s the same in Lebanon HIV-positive foreigners are not allowed to live and work here.

“The main problem for people with HIV is the expensive medical treatment – although ARVs are covered by the Ministry of Health with the support of the national AIDS programme, there are shortages from time to time and we sometimes have to pay for our own CD4 tests, our own ARV drugs and even for treatment of opportunistic infections.

“We need positive leadership to fight stigma and discrimination in our society. Public awareness campaigns are very few we only hear about HIV on World AIDS Day. We came up with a declaration of rights of people living with HIV, but the government is yet to respond to it.

“We recently formed the very first association for people living with HIV in Lebanon; it’s called ‘Think Positively’. We have 65 HIV-positive members and are trying to recruit several public figures, such as artists and religious leaders, so that we can raise the profile of HIV in the country and reduce this phobia.

“The national AIDS programme is always responding positively, giving us information, education and communication materials, as well as providing rapid tests and pushing the government to provide free healthcare for people living with HIV.

“But we need the media to take a greater initiative against HIV so that they give bigger voice to people living with HIV, who need more understanding and more dignity.”


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LEBANON: Elections entrench sectarian divisions, analysts say – A coalition led by the Iranian-backed militant group is expected to gain a small majority in parliament

Posted by African Press International on June 7, 2009

Photo: Hugh Macleod/IRIN
A Hezbollah pre-election rally. A coalition led by the Iranian-backed militant group is expected to gain a small majority in parliament

BEIRUT, – Sectarianism is playing a more central role in Lebanons highly contested parliamentary elections on 7 June, which analysts say could see the country facing increased political instability. The vote pits the Western-backed ruling coalition, predominantly made up of Sunni Muslim, Christian and Druze parties, against the Hezbollah-led opposition, mostly composed of Shia Muslims and Christians.

A bitter campaign has re-awakened painful civil war memories, an International Crisis Group (ICG) report said. Underlying conflicts will be revived, not resolved.

Lebanon is home to 18 official sectarian groups, or confessions, and still bears the painful scars of a 1975-1990 civil war that split the country under predominantly confessional lines.

This election is being held according to a revised electoral law adopted in September 2008 which increased the number of electoral districts from 14 to 26.

An assessment of the law published by Democracy Reporting International (DRI) and the Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections (LADE) concluded that the law accentuates confessional divisions” and increases the long-term potential for conflict in the country.

The report found that the new division of electoral districts essentially created 13 mono-confessional districts, whereby all lawmakers there belong to a single confessional group and where electorates are relatively homogenous.

''A bitter campaign has re-awakened painful civil war memories. Underlying conflicts will be revived, not resolved.''

Political power is divided according to religion in Lebanon. Electoral districts have more than one seat and seats are also allocated according to sect.

The most serious implication of the 2008 election law is the fact that it has increased the sectarian nature of Lebanese politics, analyst Deen Sharp wrote on his blog following the Lebanese election.

Before, the assumption was that your campaign would have to be aimed at a wider base than voters from your own sect, he told IRIN, adding that electoral lists reflected less confessional diversity.

Smaller electoral districts imply that there is less need for broad-based coalitions comprised of candidates from various sects.

Smaller districts tend to overemphasize the sectarian sensitivities. They are also more likely to be dominated by one sect and politicians have the tendency of over-playing fears, said Emile El-Hokayem, a Middle East expert with the Henry L. Stimson Center.

Fears of an opposition win

Photo: Rima Abushakra/IRIN
The time for change has come, reads a campaign poster. Lebanons recently adopted electoral law encourages sectarian voting, analysts say

A win for the opposition has raised fears that Lebanon would shift from its pro-Western orientation to one more closely aligned with Iran, which has strong links with Hezbollah.

On a recent trip to Beirut, US Vice President Joe Biden said that the United States would re-evaluate the shape of its assistance programs to Lebanon depending on the policies and shape of the new government.

While the new election law was a key component of a 2008 Qatari-brokered peace deal between the feuding Lebanese factions, the country remains vulnerable to political turmoil, analysts say.

Since the last election in 2005, Lebanon has witnessed a series of assassinations of public figures, a devastating war with Israel in 2006, a deadly battle with Islamists in 2007 and civil sectarian strife that left dozens killed in May 2008.

These occurrences all resulted in short and long-term displacement, economic ramifications and increased tensions and distrust between confessional groups that keep the country on the brink of violence.

Unlike other countries that experience periods of instability, Lebanon is fundamentally unstable, said Hani Sabra, Lebanon analyst for Eurasia Group a political risk research and consulting company.

''Unlike other countries that experience periods of instability, Lebanon is fundamentally unstable.''

There are so many potential triggers that can lead to violence in Lebanon and governance tends to always be a patchwork of ad hoc leadership designed to please local political leaders and foreign patrons, he added.

The bitter election race thus far has been relatively free of violence, though fears remain that the calm may cease in the coming days and months as election results come out and the tricky business of forming a national unity cabinet begins.

The government has taken precautionary measures to ensure security through the elections. Schools will be closed on Monday 8 June, the day after the election. A curfew will be in place as of midnight on 6 and 7 June, and the interior ministry has announced that a 50,000-strong security force was deployed around the country on June 7.


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Informing Maurice about love circles that be-cometh

Posted by African Press International on June 7, 2009

Advising Maurice,

That is very common. I have seen that trend among our sisters in USA too. On the other hand, most women from other parts of the world will like you and fall for you without conditions or expectations. The odd part is that you get “beaten” by our sisters for opening your heart (and zip) to women from other parts of the world. Same beating I see black american hit at Black males who marry or date white women yet they would be scorning or telling off the same men. I also received some “beatings” from african american for crossing the skin boundary and had to get used to the snares but it was our sisters comments which made more impact on me….”why not us?”. As in your case, i went to the UN when I was a student making $800 a month and taking Kenya Bus or Route 11 (mguu), sharing a 3 bedroom with two other fukura students from Kenya and so few Kenyan women wanted to see me leave alone take me out for a date.

I almost learned Chinese like you when this student who was attending same church fell in love with yours truly. Other than food and my fear of one day getting her in the evening preparing some dog stew or some fried frogs, she was very good. Aeronautical Engineering student who didnt care dating a student of African Studies. A lady from Kenya would have wanted to know where I came from, who are my parents and which schools I attended. On learning that I was a graduate of Mbita High School and she came from Kenya High, she would have known that I was DF (District Focus for Rural Development) and she was an Ozone (those one born and bred in Karen area and walk as if they are about to grow wings and fly away from this environmentally degraded earth.

My Chinese sweetheart only cared about love and was learning Gikuyu and doing better than some Kikuyu folks who were born in Kawangware but they think they were city born and so unable to speak Gikuyu. She bought me my first car and gave yours truly pocket money to supplement what I got teaching Swahili and Gikuyu at the State University of New York at Albany (She was a student at the prestigious Rensselaer Polytechnic Instutute in Troy NY). The Kenyan women there were getting irritated with me and kept on telling me that the Chinese will give my clan a hard time. I should have told them about the Nyatiti playing Japanese who is fluent in Dholuo.

I have never felt so happy in life during the time when I shared my life and love with Jing-wei (she told me it means ndege mdodo/small bird) but she was not that small.

Jing-Wei father died and she went back to run her family bussiness after her studies. I should have followed her to Shangai but I guess i am too a DF to survive in China. We could be making aeroplanes by now with Jing-Wei.

From Far East, I went to Israel where I distance cousin of Jesus Christ fell in love with me. I think my son Mwangi has blood and traits of Jesus Christ and may be a messiah like Obama one day. He is half Jew and the family tree goes back to Abraham via Jesus Christ. He looks half me and half Jesus Christ so we should wait to see if he will one day do some miracles (not fake ones like the ones Kambas expected Kalonzo Musyoka to perform in 2007).


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Kenya’s most guarded VIPs – Using tax payer’s money and foreign aid to pay the bill.

Posted by African Press International on June 7, 2009

By Standard on Sunday Team

It could be addiction to and affliction of power, paranoia or the legitimate fear for one’s life in high office.

For public office earns one friends and enemies in equal measure. It could also be a status symbol or fear you never know when your head is on crosshairs of a gunman’s binoculars.

For out there could be lying a vile criminal or lunatic baying for your blood.

Whichever the case your average Kenyan politician is not far from a concealed gun that could be whipped out anytime to his defence. He could be the wielder or the mean face around him.

But dig deeper into the entourage of our leaders and you will be surprised: they are well guarded, pampered and flattered.

Matters of the economy that last year grew slower than that of lawless Somalia and barely outpaced Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, behind the fasade of untaxed huge salaries, razor-wired homes, with heated swimming pools, the palatial homes that only pale in comparison to Microsoft founder Bill Gate’s, your leader could be living on another planet.

The guarded

For starters, in a country with runaway crime, questionable human rights record, raging famine, and harsh standards of living, each member of the bloated 41-member Cabinet is entitled to at least nine police officers.

Four or three, including the driver, who is always a police gunman, are always with him in public and social functions, shopping malls, and church.

The rest are shared out evenly among the sentry boxes in Nairobi, rural homes, spouses and children.

This means about 369 police officers wake up every morning to guard Cabinet ministers, their spouses, and homes. An equal number takes over when the first lot signs off.

Presidential installations

Police sources say about 2,500 police officers – out of the national tally of 40,000 (half of whom assist traffic lights and hunt for drunken, careless and unlicensed drivers) guard ministers, select MPs, politicians and top Government officials.

About 1,600 officers from the 22,000-member Administration Police supplement them. The General Service Unit’s contribution to VIP protection stands at 600.

Top on the list of the most-guarded VIPs is President Kibaki. With his family, and presidential installations, the President has a pool of 200-member elite squad drawn from the General Service Unit.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka each have 45-member armed guard at their service.

The rest of the ministers officially are entitled to at least two armed guards at their homes at any time. They are either drawn from the regular police force, General Service Unit or Administration Police.

But curiously there is a set of ministers who have a higher entitlement of armed guard at any one time. At least four of them are known to enjoy up to 10-armed police officers in chase cars at any given time.

Retinue of guards

They include Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, Internal Security Minister George Saitoti, John Michuki (Environment) and William Ruto (Agriculture).

Police spokesman Eric Kiraithe could not explain why Uhuru, Ruto, Michuki and Saitoti enjoy preferential treatment. But he argued police duties include protection of life and property.

Kiraithe explained escort, by use of chase cars, are reserved for the Prime Minster, who could soon acquire outriders. The VP, Chief Justice, Central Bank Governor, Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission Director, and the Speaker of the National Assembly, could also join the league of the fortified. He said this cadre of public officers could at any time be needed by the President for consultations.

The Standard on Sunday enquiries found out these public officers each have a chase car, at least five guards, and another division protecting their spouses and children.

The Commissioner of Police, the Chief of General Staff, and other section commanders also have a retinue of guards from their formations.

The strain on national security establishment can be discerned from the fact that an unspecified number of influential personalities, former Cabinet members, and retired public servants also have police guards – because of risks posed by decisions they made and information they accessed while in office.

Peddlers of influence

Literally, each minister has enough officers to man a patrol base at time insecurity for wananchi is spiralling out of control.

There are no clear criteria for allocating guards to VIPs though some argue it is informed by assessment of individual risk, as security intelligence determines. But our sources, who because of the sensitive nature of this story, asked they not be named, conceded some of the lower-ranking VIPs use their personal influence in Government, to get more officers at their service.

Senior police officers claimed some politicians, businessmen, and influence peddlers also do the same. “There is nothing you can do sometimes because these people use their connections in Government. They intimidate our bosses to get more security,” said a senior police officer.

These officers also guard Government buildings and foreign missions, which raises concerns such deployments increase pressure on a strained police force.

According to official policy, every one of 222 MPs is entitled to an armed guard, while two are assigned to each minister and their assistants.

But Cabinet ministers enjoy the services of additional police guards, who are posted to their urban and rural homes.

Some permanent secretaries and heads of parastatals are also accorded up to three police bodyguards.

Former Justice Minister Martha Karua told Parliament last month some former ministers were enjoying police security despite being out of Parliament. It was then thought it was a case of soar grapes as she had just quit the Cabinet. The Government is yet to deny her claim.

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