Friday, March 22, 2013


"Indian women hold a protest in New Delhi after the fatal gang rape of a student there in December." (Prakash Singh/AFP/Getty Images, January 2, 2013)
Critics Say India Rape Law Opens Way to More Abuse
By Mark Magnier
The Los Angeles Times, March 21, 2013
"Vijendera Kumar has been sentenced to work and live in a cow shed for six months, feeding and bathing the animals and shoveling their dung 10 hours a day, seven days a week, after eloping at 17 with his girlfriend. That is in addition to a year the laborer spent in jail. 'They didn't even investigate my case,' Kumar said, surrounded by 300 lumbering beasts. 'Punishing young people for having consensual sex is unfair and backwards.' Among the most controversial provisions of anti-rape legislation passed Thursday in India's Parliament -- in hurried response to public anger over the fatal mid-December gang rape of a 23-year old physiotherapy student -- was a provision setting the age of sexual consent at 18. But even before the law passed, Indian law was flexible enough, as Kumar learned, to make consensual sex among teenagers risky, a paradox in a society where rape has often gone unpunished and marriages are still arranged among the young. Reformist lawmakers argued in recent days that the age of consent should be 16 to prevent wrongful arrests in a changing society, but conservatives prevailed, fearful that a lower age would encourage premarital sex and undermine Indian morality. It was fixed at 16 from 1983 until February, when an ordinance moved it higher. Critics say the higher age opens the way for further abuses because parents frequently file rape and kidnapping charges against boys who have consensual sex with their daughters, consigning the boys to jail and the girls into quickly arranged marriages to 'protect their honor.'

Monday, March 11, 2013


"Bodies revealed by the Queiq river's receding waters." (Thomas Rassloff/EPA)
Syria: The Story behind One of the Most Shocking Images of the War
By Martin Chulov
The Guardian, March 11, 2013
"It is already one of the defining images of the Syrian civil war: a line of bodies at neatly spaced intervals lying on a river bed in the heart of Syria’s second city Aleppo. All 110 victims have been shot in the head, their hands bound with plastic ties behind their back. Their brutal execution only became apparent when the winter high waters of the Queiq river, which courses through the no man’s land between the opposition-held east of the city and the regime-held west, subsided in January. It's a picture that raises so many questions: who were these men? How did they die? Why? What does their story tell us about the wretched disintegration of Syria? A Guardian investigation has established a grisly narrative behind the worst -- and most visible -- massacre to have taken place here. All the men were from neighbourhoods in the eastern rebel-held part of Aleppo. Most were men of working age. Many disappeared at regime checkpoints. They may not be the last to be found. Locals have since dropped a grate from a bridge, directly over an eddy in the river. Corpses were still arriving 10 days after the original discovery on January 29, washed downstream by currents flushed by winter rains. Just after dawn on 29 January, a car pulled up outside a school being used as a rebel base in the Aleppo suburb of Bustan al-Qasr with news of the massacre. Since then a painstaking task to identify the victims and establish how they died has been inching forwards. The victims, many without names, were mostly buried within three days -- 48 hours longer than social custom dictates, to allow for their families to claim them. Ever since, relatives have been arriving to identify the dead from photographs taken by the rescuers.