In tonight’s Dispatch: a woman goes on hunger strike in protest at India’s rape laws; a demonstration is planned against South Korea’s cosmetic surgery industry; Indigenous women from North America call for an end to fossil fuel projects; and the NHS confirms the scale of the vaginal mesh problem.
Indian women’s commissioner goes on hunger strike over rape laws
Swati Maliwal, the head of the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW), has gone on indefinite hunger strike to push for stricter laws against rape in India.
Maliwal has been lying on an outdoor stage in Rajghat, northeast Delhi, since 13 April. She has not eaten anything during this time, and is being supplied with water by minders.
The chairwoman’s strike comes as demonstrations erupted across India over the separate alleged rapes of two young girls. Thousands of people took to the streets on Sunday 15 April to protest reports that a 16-year-old girl had been repeatedly raped by a ruling party politician and his associates, following the news that an eight-year-old girl had been raped and murdered in northern India.
The protests were some of the largest seen in India since university student Jyoti Singh was gang-raped and murdered in Delhi in 2012.
Before starting her hunger strike, Maliwal published an open letter to Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi, in which she called on rape to be punishable by death and criticised Modi for failing to speak out about the alleged rapes (he eventually did so the day after her letter was published).
“I feel upset that the leader of our country doesn’t say anything – let alone do anything about it,” she wrote.
CNN has more on this story here.
South Korea’s plastic surgery industry condemned as “cultural violence against women”
The booming cosmetic surgery industry in South Korea is facing a backlash from academics, artists and rights groups, which they have described as a form of “cultural violence against women”.
An anti-surgery ‘peace march’ will be held through the famous Gangnam district of Seoul - renowned as the epicentre of Asia’s plastic surgery industry – on Monday 23 April.
The Asia Institute is co-organising the march alongside the Korean Peace Movement. Emanuel Pastreich, head of the Asia Institute, told Korea Times: “Plastic surgery and the cult of the woman as object for consumption is at the centre of this cultural violence against women, and it has formed a particularly lethal strain in Korea, especially in Gangnam.”
Poet Maija Rhee Devine, who will give a reading at the protest, said she was interested in challenging the consumerist nature of the surgery industry.
“I have also been interested in and upset with society’s overwhelming favouritism toward women and men of good looks,” she said. “This type of consumerism, overemphasis on appearances and upholding of superficial values disheartens me, as the message it sends out is external, physical appearances matter more than internal, intellectual qualities.”
Read more on this story here.
Indigenous women call on banks to stop funding fossil fuel projects
A group of Indigenous women leaders from across North America are travelling to Europe this week to challenge banks and political leaders on the “unethical” financing of fossil fuel projects.
Members of the Indigenous Women’s Divestment Delegation aim to highlight how the environment and their ways of life are threatened by industries based on extracting fossil fuels.
While in Europe, they will meet with politicians, representatives of financial institutions and civil society groups “to share stories, data and calls to action”. They hope this will inspire “a transition to a just, clean energy future”.
Their campaign is focused mainly on Switzerland and Germany, two countries where international banks are based that the organisers say support “dangerous extraction projects across Indigenous territories in the US and globally”.
The Ecologist has more on this story here.
NHS confirms scale of vaginal mesh problem – but campaigners say number is underestimated
Campaigners have accused the government of using figures “selectively” to underestimate how many women suffer complications from vaginal mesh surgery.
An NHS audit published this week showed that 211 women have had a vaginal mesh implant removed since 2008, while 2,639 have had vaginal tape implants removed. However, Kate Samson, founder of campaign group Sling the Mesh, said that this data was likely to be inaccurate as it does not include information on private procedures.
Samson also criticised the audit for not including data on the number of women who visited their GPs for pain medication or antibiotics to treat urinary infections that occurred as a result of vaginal mesh surgery.
“This audit has no information on the devastating social and psychological impact on women,” she said. “We demand a national recall urgently before hundreds more women are maimed by mesh.”
Read more on this story at BBC News.
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