Sunday, 20 May 2018

Gender discrimination kills 239,000 girls in India each year: Study

An estimated 239,000 girls under the age of five die in India each year due to neglect linked to gender discrimination, a new study has found.

The figure, which amounts to 2.4 million deaths a decade, does not include pre-natal mortality rates.

"Gender-based discrimination towards girls doesn't simply prevent them from being born, it may also precipitate the death of those who are born," wrote the study's co-researcher Christophe Guilmoto in the Lancet medical journal.

"Gender equity is not only about rights to education, employment or political representation. It is also about care, vaccination, and nutrition of girls, and ultimately survival," added Guilmoto.

The report is the first to examine the number of avoidable deaths among girls under five in India at a district level, showing specific geographic patterns of avoidable female mortality across India's 640 districts.

Avoidable or excess mortality is defined as the difference between observed and expected mortality rates.

To determine that figure for India, researchers used UN population data from 46 countries to calculate the difference between the expected morality rate for girls aged under five in areas of the world without gender discrimination and the reality inside India.

The researchers found that 29 out of 35 Indian states showed overall excess mortality in girls under five, and all Indian states and territories, apart from two, contained at least one district with excess mortality.


The average level of excess mortality in girls aged 0-4 in India between 2000-2005 was 18.5 per 1,000 live births, or close to a quarter of a million deaths a year.

"Around 22% of the overall mortality burden of females under five is therefore due to gender bias," the study's authors, the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) a scientific institute based in Austria, said in a statement released Monday.

IIASA researchers found that the problem was most pronounced in northern India, where the four largest states, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, and Madhya Pradesh, accounted for two thirds of the total excess deaths of infant girls under five.

The study showed that the areas worse affected were typically in rural regions, with low levels of education, high population densities and high birth rates.

The study's co-author Nandita Saikia, from the IIASA, said that the findings reinforced the need to address directly the issue of gender discrimination in addition to "encouraging social and economic development for its benefits on Indian women."

The report suggests many of the deaths are at least partly due to unwanted female child bearing in a society that has a preference for sons.

"The sustained fertility decline currently observed in north India is likely to lead to a reduction in postnatal discrimination. Unless son preference diminishes, lower fertility, however, might bring about a rise in gender-biased sex selection," said Saikia.

A preference for boys and the availability of sex-selective operations, although illegal in India, means there's a gender gap of as many as 63 million girls.

As a result, India has one of the most skewed sex ratios in the world. For every 107 males born in India, there are 100 females. According to the World Health Organization the natural sex ratio at birth is 105 males for every 100 females.

(Source: CNN)

Reality of motherhood in honest photo series

"Motherhood is learning how to do everything with one hand while carrying a baby in another"

A photographer has captured what life as a stay-at-home mum is really like with a series of brutally honest images.

Giedre Gomes, from Cedar Lake in Indiana, is a photographer and mother to two young sons, five-year-old Mario and three-year-old Rocco.

To mark Mother’s Day in the US, the 35-year-old knew she wanted to create a powerful photo series but was also tired of seeing conventional dreamy images of women and their children.

Instead, she wanted to show the reality of motherhood and challenge the stereotypes that come with being a stay-at-home parent.


After putting out an open call on Facebook looking for mothers to feature in her photographs, Gomes joined forces with her neighbour, Jamie, to create an honest series of images inspired by their own experiences as parents.

“I knew I wanted to show a mother butt naked on the toilet not having any privacy and a mother trying to shower with the company of the kids,” Gomes told The Independent.

“This project was so me. Every single picture in this project, I have been there. I even have cell phone pictures of me on the toilet while breastfeeding.


“I’m a fun, happy, crazy mum, who doesn’t care what other people think and thankfully my neighbour Jamie is just like me and said ‘I don’t care, I will pose on the toilet.’”

Together, Gomes and her friends created a series of pictures portraying everything from breastfeeding while simultaneously preparing dinner, to chaos in supermarkets, being jumped on in bed and being interrupted while on the toilet.


But while the images are light-hearted, the photographer hopes that it will create a more serious conservation about just how hard motherhood can sometimes be.

“I wanted to show that stay home mums don’t sleep all day. So many people think ‘oh good for you, you are home all day, you don’t have to work’ but that’s just not right,” she said.


Writing for Bored Panda, the mother-of-two also explained how she believes being a mum is the best job in the world but that it’s not always “rainbows and butterflies.”

“Motherhood is no longer having privacy, never peeing or showering in peace. Motherhood is using your shirt to wipe runny noses and dirty faces. Motherhood is learning how to do everything with one hand while carrying a baby in another.


“Motherhood is waking up with a little butt or foot in your face. Motherhood is breastfeeding whenever wherever. But in the end, I wouldn’t have it any other way,” she wrote.

After sharing her photo series for Mother’s Day, Gomes says that she didn’t expect the reaction it has received but is pleased that so many parents can relate to it.

(Source: Independent)

Would you pay your ex a 'break-up fee'?

Earlier this month, police in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou responded to a call after bar staff reported finding a suspicious suitcase.

It contained two million yuan in cash ($314,204; £233,323) - an extraordinary amount of money, maybe even life-changing.

They managed to track down the owner, who according to the local police, had arranged to meet with his ex-girlfriend in the bar.

The money? It was a "break-up fee" a new trend in Chinese dating.

The price of true love?
Everyone knows that dating can be expensive; forking out a bit of cash to buy drinks or meals in the early stages of a relationship, or buying gifts and holidays later on.

No longer content to just have the awkward meeting to hand each others' stuff back, break-up fees have emerged in recent years in China as a sort of compensation at the end of a long-term relationship.


While not legally binding, it's a bit like one party giving their former partner a divorce settlement.

It's the person that ends the relationship that pays the fee. They decide, based on the amount of time, effort and money they have invested in the relationship, how much money they should give to their former partner.

Some people look pragmatically at the amount of money their partner had spent on them while they were dating, whereas others set a levy based on how severe they think the emotional damage of the break-up will be.

Break-up fees are more commonly paid by men - out of guilt or in order to offset their partner's upset. However, increasingly some women see it as acceptable to pay a fee, given that it is traditionally the man who will pay for meals and gifts in a Chinese relationship.

Some reports suggest they're an urban phenomenon spurred on by increasing consumerism.

But others see them as a possible hangover from earlier times - when Chinese women were more financially dependent on men. Chinese attitudes towards dating have traditionally been pragmatic and geared towards marriage. So the fee is meant to prevent embittered parties from suffering emotional damage, and to help them start a clean slate with their former partner.

Reports suggest that the fee can specifically helps older women who feel they have lost opportunities that they might have had in their youth to either prioritise their career or meet "the one".

Cases of break-up fees which make it into the media range from the seemingly harmless, to those involving complicated court proceedings.

Some have been met with droll humour, such as a case in April where a woman sent her former partner an inventory of every single restaurant and hotel they had visited. She had painstakingly researched how much her partner had spent on her, and wanted to reimburse him what she thought she owed.


In January, a case in the eastern city of Ningbo involved a man demanding compensation from his girlfriend after she dumped him for going bald.

Other cases have been more serious. In November 2014, a man in southwest Sichuan province demanded compensation from his girlfriend after finding out that she had other partners.

They were both married but had been seeing each other for five years and he had often given her money to buy clothes. After the woman refused to pay the man a "break-up tax" multiple times, he went to her home and threw acid at her family.

He was arrested on suspected manslaughter, but argued that his behaviour could have been avoided if the couple had parted as equals.

(Source: BBC)

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry are married

And they're married! Britain's Prince Harry and US actress Meghan Markle sealed their wedding vows with a kiss on the steps outside Windsor's St. George's Chapel on Saturday, cheered on by delighted crowds.

The couple -- now the Duke and Duchess of Sussex -- then set off on a procession through the streets of Windsor in an open carriage drawn by four Windsor Grey horses.

The bridal party, including three-year-old Princess Charlotte, Harry's niece, waved enthusiastically as the couple departed from the chapel after a ceremony that was unprecedented in British royal history.

In a departure from tradition, Markle walked much of the way up the aisle unchaperoned, followed by her 10 bridesmaids and page boys -- a move that is unprecedented for a royal bride in Britain and was seen as a powerful statement of her feminist principles.


Her elegant white dress with an open bateau neckline was by British designer Clare Waight Keller, Givenchy's first female artistic director. Her 16-foot-long veil was held in place by a diamond bandeau tiara lent to her by the Queen.

Only when she reached the 15th-century chapel's Quire was Markle accompanied for her final steps to the foot of the altar by Prince Charles, Harry's father.

Harry, flanked by his brother and best man Prince William, looked emotional as he waited at the altar, dressed in the frockcoat uniform of the Blues and Royals.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle stand together during their marriage ceremony.
Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan Markle stand together at the start of their wedding ceremony.
The couple sat with clasped hands as they listened to an impassioned sermon from Chicago-based bishop Michael Curry, the first African-American head of the Episcopal Church in the United States.

His fiery preaching style was a marked departure from the usually conservative tone of a British royal wedding. Harry could be seen saying "Wow" to Meghan as the sermon ended.

It was followed by a performance of the Ben E. King classic "Stand by me" by the Kingdom Choir, a group of 20 gospel singers.

Meghan was all smiles as she said her vows and gave Harry his wedding ring. The crowd could be faintly heard cheering outside as the couple were proclaimed husband and wife by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, the most senior cleric in the Church of England.


Big moments so far
• Harry's aunt Lady Jane Fellowes, the sister of his late mother, Princess Diana, gave the reading from the Book of Solomon.
• Palace revealed that Meghan's wedding ring has been made from Welsh gold and is a gift from the Queen, while Harry's is platinum.
• The Queen conferred the titles of Duke of Sussex, Earl of Dumbarton and Baron Kilkeel on Prince Harry, making Meghan the first-ever Duchess of Sussex.

The last to arrive before the bride was the Queen, wearing a lime silk dress, accompanied by Prince Philip.

Among the host of famous guests already waiting in the chapel were Oprah Winfrey, George and Amal Clooney -- dressed in an eye-catching yellow dress and hat -- tennis star Serena Williams, actor Idris Elba and singer James Blunt.

Flowers and foliage surround the West Door and steps of St. George's Chapel on Saturday.
Former footballer and celebrity David Beckham stopped to hug a fan as he walked alongside wife Victoria Beckham, former Spice Girls singer turned fashion designer, toward the chapel door.

Guests connected to the royal family included Pippa Middleton and her parents and Tom Parker Bowles, who is the son of Prince Charles' wife, Camilla. Earl Charles Spencer -- brother of Harry's mother, the late Princess Diana -- was another of the guests, as was Harry's aunt Sarah Ferguson, the ex-wife of Prince Andrew.

Former Prime Minister John Major, who was made a guardian to William and Harry after Diana died in 1997, was another high profile guest. Current Prime Minister Theresa May was not invited.
Senior members of the royal family, Prince Charles, the Princess Royal, Prince Andrew and his daughters, Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice were among the last to arrive.

Crowds gathered in the streets of Windsor from early Saturday, hoping to catch a glimpse of the bride and groom as they process through the town in an open horse-drawn carriage following the ceremony. Other devoted royal fans have camped out for several days to get the best possible spot. Forecasters promise blue skies for the big day.

Many more people planned to rise early (or stay up all night) in the United States to watch as Harry, long a favorite with the British public for his irreverent good humor, tied the knot with his California-born bride.
Crowds gather near Windsor Castle for the wedding of Harry and Meghan on Saturday.
The wedding represents a historic moment for the royal family, as it welcomes an outspoken biracial, American divorcée into its ranks.

In a reflection of its contemporary nature, the couple chose a modern set of wedding vows, with the text of the formal parts of the service taken from Common Worship, the Church of England's standard liturgy, first published in 2000. It is thought to be the first time that this text has been used in a royal wedding.

There was no promise by Markle to "obey" her husband. Rather, Meghan pledged to "love him, comfort him, honor and protect him." Harry has chosen to wear a wedding ring, unlike his brother.

The award-winning young cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason was chosen to play during the signing of the register. The ceremony will end with the Etta James version of "Amen/This Little Light of Mine," a gospel song that became synonymous with the US civil rights movement.

The presence of Harry's mother was also felt at the ceremony. "Guide me o thou great redeemer" was sung at Diana's funeral, at her memorial service in 2007 and at Kate and William's wedding in 2011.

Flowers adorn the front of the organ loft inside St George's Chapel.
Guests from Markle's side included cast members from "Suits" -- the legal drama in which she made her name. Actresses Abigail Spencer, Sarah Rafferty, Gina Torres and actor Gabriel Macht were all seen arriving.

It appeared that TV legend and philanthropist Winfrey, dressed in Stella McCartney with a large hat, would be seated in the Quire with the family and other close friends, rather than in the main body of guests in the nave.

In an effort to be inclusive, the couple invited 2,640 members of the public, including 1,200 ordinary people from communities around the United Kingdom, to watch from inside the castle grounds as the guests arrived.

Among them were Helen McKenzie and Louis Davidson, who were invited through their local community in Somerset. "We got the invitation a while ago but had to keep it secret. It wasn't easy!" Davidson told CNN as the pair headed into the castle.

(Source: CNN)

Duke and Duchess of Sussex: Harry and Meghan's new titles

She may be marrying a prince today, but that doesn't make Meghan Markle a princess -- Queen Elizabeth II has conferred the titles of Duke and Duchess of Sussex on Prince Harry and Meghan ahead of their wedding Saturday.

Harry's titles will be His Royal Highness The Duke of Sussex, Earl of Dumbarton and Baron Kilkeel. Once married, Meghan will be known as Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Sussex. She will be the first person to hold that title.

The only previous person to hold the title of Duke of Sussex was an anti-slavery campaigner and supporter of rights for Catholics and Jews, according to the Royal Collection. Prince Augustus Frederick, son of George III and Queen Charlotte, gained the title in 1801.

The titles are granted under the British monarchy's system of "peerage," which traces back to feudal times. Originally, the monarch would bestow titles on servants who pledged loyalty in exchange for protection or land, making them a peer of the realm. Today, it is used for relatives of the monarch.


Titles are decided by the Queen when a relative either comes of age or gets married.

The Queen can choose from five titles for a man -- duke, marquess, earl, viscount or baron -- and for a woman -- duchess, marchioness, countess, viscountess and baroness. Dukedom is the highest of all five.

Typically, family members are given the titles of Duke and Duchess, but the Queen can choose to bestow more than one title.

In the case of Prince Harry's brother, Prince William, he and his wife, Kate Middleton, became the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, but the Queen also granted Prince William the titles of Earl of Strathearn and Baron Carrickfergus.

Prince Charles -- Harry and William's father -- is the Duke of Cornwall, and the Queen's second son, Prince Andrew, was given the title Duke of York.

But breaking with tradition was the Queen's youngest son, Prince Edward, who chose the title Earl of Wessex when he married.

(Source: CNN)