Tag Archives: India

India’s Supreme Court has a homophobic brain fade…

It looks like people in positions of power in the Indian judiciary are not particularly exempt from indulging in confused thinking to any degree. Just two years ago, the Delhi High court decided to decriminalise homosexuality in what was a very progressive and welcome move, ruling its criminalisation on the basis of a law from the 1860s unconstitutional on grounds of being discriminatory.

Today, India’s Supreme Court decided to overturn that decision and recriminalise homosexuality in the country, upholding it to be constitutional and saying that Parliament would have to amend the law if they had to get rid of it, which the government is not saying it will do with elections coming up next year and voting along religious lines being an important part of the equation; what is beyond my comprehension though is how they could have possibly found it constitutional given this fundamental right in the Indian constitution; that every citizen shall have

  1. Right to equality, including equality before law, prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth, and equality of opportunity in matters of employment, abolition of untouchability and abolition of titles.”

In what parallel universe would the assertion that you can only have consensual sexual relationships with a woman only if you are a man and consensual sexual relationships with a man only if you are a woman not be discriminatory on the basis of sex?

To quote their judgement as reported in [1]

“It is relevant to mention here that Section 377 IPC does not criminalize a particular people or identity or orientation. It merely identifies certain acts, which if committed, would constitute an offence. Such prohibition regulates sexual conduct regardless of gender identity and orientation,” Justices Singhvi (sic) said. “

Yeah, how about we take it a bit further and say “This law does not criminalise a particular group, tribe or gender, it only criminalises their act of breathing!”; reductio ad absurdum it may be but it highlights the vapidity of the whole rotten affair. What particular acts are they talking about, anyway?

Anal sex? Are they going to check if straight couples too aren’t doing it? Fingering, fellatio, tribadism?  I despair at the lack of logic involved here, it is also quite trivial to imagine any number of acts that are integral to the well being and equality of various people and groups of people – one can’t then ban that act and then say it isn’t discriminatory because it is that act which is banned; what matters is that it can have disproportionate impact on a subsection of the population and it can become discriminatory towards them as a direct consequence… 

More nonsense from them.

“”While reading down Section 377, the division bench of the HC overlooked that a miniscule fraction of the country’s population constitute lesbians, gays, bisexuals or trans-genders and in the last more than 150 years less that 200 persons have been prosecuted for committing offence under Section 377 IPC and this cannot be made a sound basis for declaring the section ultra vires (violative of) the provisions of Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution,” the apex court said. ”

So unconstitutional laws are constitutional when the people they affect [1] comprise a small minority of the population and [2] it doesn’t get used to persecute them  very frequently, which is completely against the fact that fundamental rights apply to every citizen; not just those belonging to groups that are of more than a miniscule size or are persecuted at more than some arbitrarily determined frequency.Seriously?

The people who’ve welcomed its recriminalisation have mostly done so on the basis of religious beliefs and an appeal to tradition; I wonder if they will also welcome a return to widow-burning and child marriage in the name of the latter – it comes across to me as an unabashed display of egregious stupidity and contemptuous inhumanity, as does the ridiculous yet alarming bilge on display in the comments section in the article I quoted excerpts of the judgement from.

As the holder of an Indian passport I hate being associated with regressive fuckwits, and the guardian of India’s constitution has shown itself capable of mental gymnastics that would make an invertebrate proud. For shame…

[1] http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Supreme-Court-makes-homosexuality-a-crime-again/articleshow/27230690.cms

[2] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-25329065

PS- This article on the Daily Beast rips the judgement apart better than I could and highlights more flaws and fallacies. Go read it. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/12/12/carnal-injustice-india-s-outrageous-court-ruling-against-gays.html 

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Will Indian Society finally wake up? – Part Deux.

Warning – reader discretion is advised. Some people might find what is written unpalatable.

Hello there,

A few weeks ago it was an alarming trend towards increasing sex-selective abortions in India, even in sections of the society that were well to do and were educated, that shook me up, and now, in a bizarre turn of events, sex-selective abortion has ended up looking almost palatable in comparison to what has transpired in Indore.

If news reports are to be believed, and from what I know India’s National Committee for the Protection of Child Rights has been taking these reports seriously, the fetish for male children has been taken to a whole new extent in the conservative city of Indore.

Parents have been resorting to changing the gender of their daughters through gender reassignment surgery, also called genitoplasty. Now this is unethical right from the start, reason being that there is tangible harm done to the child, which violates the Hippocratic oath which doctors swear to uphold, but that is only the beginning. There is a very good reason that we don’t allow people to marry children, or give children the right to make their own decisions, or give them the right to vote, or the right to use alcohol, that being that they are incapable of giving informed consent till then; Note the word ‘informed’.

So if there is a medical procedure that is being carried out on people who cannot consent to it and is definitely of no medical benefit, why is it even being allowed in the first place? The only reason I can suspect is that nobody had thought that things could get this weird, now that things have gotten this weird, I suppose it would be great if the legislative bodies in the country acted swiftly to curb the practise; My only fear is that it may send this practise underground, and make it much more difficult to root out.

Right, so what are some of the obvious harms of bringing up a female child as a male child? While I cannot find direct examples of this happening there happens to be one exceptional case in which a male child was brought up as a female child.

David Reimer had a botched circumcision that led to his penis being damaged, his parents had his gender changed (after his testes were removed and what was left of his penis was removed and a hole in his abdomen was constructed to enable urination )under the influence of a controversial psychologist called John Money, who wanted to show that gender identities can be completely learned (i.e, it is purely an externally learned behavioural construct) and brought him up as a girl named Brenda. While John Money was out in the press spouting crap about how the gender reassignment had been “successful” , David Reimer had been undergoing psychological trauma and bouts of severe depression, being unable to adopt a female gender identity, despite being treated with female hormones and having an external female identity imposed.

He then, after bouts of suicidal depression, decided to revert to a male identity at the age of fourteen, and in the years to come he had everything they had done to him to change his gender reassigned. He published a story of his experiences to dissuade other doctors from ever deciding in favour of such a “therapeutic” strategy.

All the years of trauma had taken their toll, though, and with a marriage that began to dissolve he was pushed over the edge and committed suicide.

You can find an account of this case, which was featured on the BBC, here , the BBC documentary described in that page is here.

So, to sum up, that one tragic case should be a warning that should be heeded by parents who are resorting to this kind of absurd practise in Indore, never mind the fact that there is no way doctors should be carrying this procedure out, and never mind the fact that the law needs to be amended to make this illegal since the practise is grossly unethical.

The news report that reported the practise is here and a report of the IPCR deciding to get involved in an investigative capacity is here

I cannot be angry enough with the blinkered muppets who think putting their children through the trauma of gender reassignment without their consent is acceptable, all for the purposes of fulfilling their fetish for a son, if they are so fond of a penis I suggest that they get cadaver dicks grafted onto their heads, it would serve as a mark of identity. Moreover, do these geniuses (yes, that is sarcasm) not realize that females reassigned as males will not be fertile, that they will not produce sperm?

So, what can you do? Speak out, make a stand, oppose misogyny. Remember that having a set of balls or lacking it by birth does not have an impact on how successful, bright, beautiful or wonderful someone might be, also remember that when proponents of such practises see you take notice of the practise but do not speak out, they may see it as tacit endorsement.

I will not shut up, and I don’t think you should either.

– Exploreable.

Will Indian Society Finally Wake Up?

Hello there,

It isn’t often I blog about social issues but the one we have at the moment is one I deem important enough to the extent that overlooking it would be impossible. We are talking about a further, alarming, skewing of the child sex ratio in India, as reported by in a research paper in the Lancet. The paper in question is “Trends in selective abortions of girls in India: analysis of nationally representative birth histories from 1990 to 2005 and census data from 1991 to 2011, Jha et al, The Lancet, doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(11)60649-1″ which you may access for free upon registering on The Lancet website here

The abstract of the study reads thus

Background

India’s 2011 census revealed a growing imbalance between the numbers of girls and boys aged 0—6 years, which we postulate is due to increased prenatal sex determination with subsequent selective abortion of female fetuses. We aimed to establish the trends in sex ratio by birth order from 1990 to 2005 with three nationally representative surveys and to quantify the totals of selective abortions of girls with census cohort data.


Methods

We assessed sex ratios by birth order in 0•25 million births in three rounds of the nationally representative National Family Health Survey covering the period from 1990 to 2005. We estimated totals of selective abortion of girls by assessing the birth cohorts of children aged 0—6 years in the 1991, 2001, and 2011 censuses. Our main statistic was the conditional sex ratio of second-order births after a firstborn girl and we used 3-year rolling weighted averages to test for trends, with differences between trends compared by linear regression.

Findings
The conditional sex ratio for second-order births when the firstborn was a girl fell from 906 per 1000 boys (99% CI 798—1013) in 1990 to 836 (733—939) in 2005; an annual decline of 0•52% (p for trend=0•002). Declines were much greater in mothers with 10 or more years of education than in mothers with no education, and in wealthier households compared with poorer households. By contrast, we did not detect any significant declines in the sex ratio for second-order births if the firstborn was a boy, or for firstborns. Between the 2001 and 2011 censuses, more than twice the number of Indian districts (local administrative areas) showed declines in the child sex ratio as districts with no change or increases. After adjusting for excess mortality rates in girls, our estimates of number of selective abortions of girls rose from 0—2•0 million in the 1980s, to 1•2—4•1 million in the 1990s, and to 3•1—6•0 million in the 2000s. Each 1% decline in child sex ratio at ages 0—6 years implied 1•2—3•6 million more selective abortions of girls. Selective abortions of girls totalled about 4•2—12•1 million from 1980—2010, with a greater rate of increase in the 1990s than in the 2000s.

Interpretation
Selective abortion of girls, especially for pregnancies after a firstborn girl, has increased substantially in India. Most of India’s population now live in states where selective abortion of girls is common.

They basically carried out analysis of statistics from a survey they organized, the Indian National Health Survey, and Census data from 2011 and 2001, they used a rolling three year average of chid sex ratios for evaluation and they subjected the values from it to linear regression analysis, which is used to identify trends. You may read more about the use of rolling averages here and Linear Regression Analysis here
They accounted for factors such as female infant mortality due to non-abortion reasons et cetera to arrive at a standard that we should expect to see if sex selective abortions were absent, and this is what renders their analysis rigorous.

Some of the findings that have emerged from the study are downright shocking.

Firstly, it would appear that the number of sex-selective abortions as far as girl children were concerned, based on an estimate which they derived using a conditional measure based only on second-born female chidren seems to have shot up drastically, of course, while it appears that the rate of increase is not as rapid in the past decade as opposed to the ‘nineties, the increase in number is rather worrisome.

Secondly, perhaps even more shockingly, the prevalence of sex-selective abortions based on their estimates seems to be more in cases where i) Mothers were educated ii)Households were richer, which is especially alarming. It would also appear that the number of districts in India from which further skewing of the Child sex ratio has been reported has also increased, the conclusion from this being that the practise is on its way up and is spreading nationally. The authors of the paper suspect this may be to do with the ability to afford ultrasound (which is used for sex determination)

The implication of this is that we’ll start to end up with more men than women in Indian society in the next generation (since the current cohort being studied and subjected to evaluation will grow up to be the men and women who define it) and if the problem isn’t dealt with quickly, we will, on a national level, end up with a severe disparity in the number of men and women, and with all the responsibilities women currently hold in the Indian setup and all they do, it could have major social repercussions.

One of the most striking trends that emerges from the published data is the spread of the phenomenon, using data from three decades to see what proportion of the population had a skewed child sex ratios, the authors found that 56% of the population of India lives in states where the child sex ratio (CSR) is skewed, as opposed to 10% in 1991 and 27% in 2001, which would indicate that the spread of Sex-selective abortion has been spreading to more and more places in the country.

I have cited a graph from the original paper under fair use conditions for purposes of scholarship and education that illustrates this.

Distribution of the total population living in states with varying child sex ratios (girls per 1000 boys at ages 0—6 years), 1991, 2001, and 2011 Mean national values for each of the censuses are shown. The vertical grey bar represents a natural sex ratio at birth of 950—975 girls per 1000 boys, where the distribution of child sex ratios at ages 0—6 years would be centred in the hypothetical absence of selective abortion of girls and equal girl and boy child mortality rates.

Please right-click the graph and use the menu to bring up a larger image, I hope you can see how the practice has been taking hold in India and how it is increasingly skewing child sex ratios.

Here is a map illustrating geographical changes in child sex ratio, again from the same paper and cited under fair use provisions.

Child sex ratio of girls to boys at ages 0–6 years in 2001 and 2011, by district Of the 623 districts, data were available for 596 in the 2001 census and 588 in the 2011 census. The blue highlighted states are Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, and Punjab, which have shown consistently lower child sex ratios at ages 0–6 years in the last three censuses. State names are Andhra Pradesh (AP); Assam (AS); Bihar (BR); Chattisgarh (CG); Gujarat (GJ); Haryana (HR); Himachal Pradesh (HP); Jammu and Kashmir (JK); Jharkhand (JH); Karnataka (KA); Kerala (KL); Maharashtra (MH); Orissa (OR); Punjab (PB); Rajasthan (RJ); Tamil Nadu (TN); Uttarakhand (UK); Uttar Pradesh (UP); West Bengal (WB); and Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, and Tripura (collectively NE).

Again, right-click the map and use the pop-up menu for a larger image.

Further Information and Links

You can also read an article by Kalpana Sharma of The Guardian here , read the BBC’s coverage of the reaction to the data that has emerged in Bihar (which is a very bad offender)
here and in Kashmir here. You can also read a case report on female foeticide and infanticide from Gendercide.org here


Spread the word, share these articles, talk about the issues at hand, pretending there isn’t a problem while maintaining a facade of perfection as a country is going to achieve bugger all! Only when people are willing to come to terms with the presence of a problem can efforts be made to look for solutions, only when there is strong consensus will people begin to make that effort. We just cannot put up with abortions being carried out because a foetus happened to be the second one in gestation and lacked a Y chromosome.

Thanks for reading,now go spread the word.
– Ankur “Exploreable” Chakravarthy.

UK Biotech world

In Cambridge, anyone will point you to Eagle pub. Reason: It was in this pub that on 28th Feb 1953 one of the greatest discoveries was announced. Crick and Watson declared that they had discovered “the secret of life”. They were talking about the structure of DNA. It revolutionized biology.

I know about this piece of information because I visited the city of Cambridge to inspire me and to find out a little bit more about the subjects that I am passionate about. It does help the date of the announcement of the structure of DNA coincides with my birth date.

It doesn’t stop there. In 1997, Dolly, the sheep, was born as a result of the first mammal clone using an adult cell. In 2003, the human Genome project was completed! As of 2010, there are ~500 dedicated biotech businesses with over $ 10 billion revenue. UK has developed nearly a quarter of the top 100 medicines being utilized now.

So, what really is the relationship between India and UK in the biosciences sector?

To answer that, it is a growing relationship. India and UK are both strong in biosciences. The British market is very ‘friendly’ for the Indian investors. (Recently, many companies like Avesthagen, Ocimum biosolutions, Ranbaxy, Shasun Chemicals and drugs etc have established their offices in UK). In Britain, it is easy for a scientist to translate scientific research into a commercialized business as compared to India. There is one business spin off for every 27 million pounds worth of research on an average in UK.

India now has a good intellectual property law coupled with great skills in the clinical trials sector. We still lack good R&D facilities. We need to start working on being more practical when training our students. But, for that there are numerous obstacles which I am not going to deal with in this blog. Just so you know, it is important to be a “Lab ready” candidate when you are searching for a job.

Since I did my degree in Scotland, I can tell you a little bit about the way things go on in that part of the country.

When I selected Scotland as my study destination, I had read several articles from genuine sources which provided statistics and such which convinced me that Scotland region is indeed a genuine centre of excellence. The birth of Dolly, in fact was in Edinburgh, Scotland. I had the opportunity to do part of my degree in University of Aberdeen and the rest from the University of Edinburgh. Both the Universities provided me every facility that I would need to complete my master’s degree successfully (Which I utilized to the best of my abilities).

I have done a very crude pie chart to explain how the life science organization is divided in Scotland. Recently, a company called Haptogen (Opened by one of my course coordinators at University of Aberdeen) was taken over by another company called Wyeth. Wyeth was later bought by Astra Zeneca for multimillion pound upfront money. These kinds of major moves by pharmaceutical giants have brought small companies like Haptogen on the map of biotech world.

Now that you have understood how UK biotech world is growing at an ever increasing world, what you should do to get into it and be a part of the system?

For one, you should be sure of what you want to do. If it is research, then try to get atleast a PhD in your relevant field. Highly educated candidates are always respected all over UK and the world. If you can get some experience working in your field, then that would be good for you. I personally feel, there is no substitute for good experience.

I hope I have explained how the biotech world is divided in UK and what they expect out of you. If you still have queries, I will be glad to answer them. Remember, hard work definitely pays off, but it is also important to do some smart work and look out for opportunities.