Friday, October 27, 2006

India abolishes husbands' 'right' to rape wife

The evocative headline grabbed my attention in today's Independent. It's difficult to get excited by statistical analysis of events probably due to a degree of desensitisation from the seemingly endless conveyor belt of shocking statistics from Iraq, Darfur, Afghanistan etc but the numbers in this piece were sufficiently outrageous to appear on my radar.

There is a remarkably low rate of violent crime against strangers in most of the big cities, and it is safe to walk the streets of Mumbai or Bangalore late at night. But every six hours, a young married woman is burnt to death, beaten to death, or driven to suicide by emotional abuse from her husband, figures show.

More than two-thirds of married women in India aged between 15 and 49 have been beaten, raped or forced to provide sex, according to the UN Population Fund.

The UN Population Fund's 2005 report found that 70 per cent of Indian women believed wife-beating was justified under certain circumstances, including...preparing dinner late.


I broke my fast with the customary (fake-McVities) digestive biscuit and (authentic) Typhoo tea and with renewed vigour set about seeing patients in the Paediatric Assessment Unit. As I sat behind the reception desk to gather my thoughts and subsequently scrawl them on to paper, my eyes caught those of a gentleman who happened to be strolling past to get a drink for his daughter. He looked familiar but I couldn't quite place him.

There was a backlog of kids waiting to be seen so I didn't ration much further brainpower and time in trying to decipher how the Venn diagrams of our lives had overlapped. However, when he walked past again neither of us could contain ourselves. The bespectacled father (BF) approached the desk and in the broadest of Walsall accents initiated proceedings:

BF: Excuse me doctor.
Me: Hello.
BF: I don't mean to be rude but...
Me: (Interrupting him Paxmanesquely) I know what you're going to say: you've seen me somewhere before?
BF: Yeah.
Me: But I've no idea where!
BF: I do. Were you a student here?

[I naturally began to scramble through my distant memories of undertaking a rotation at this hospital during my student days desperately trying to uncover any seeds that may have sprouted into hefty legal proceedings.]

Me: (Nervously) erm...yes.
BF: You see that little girl over there (pointing to a 3-year old girl being seen by another doctor)?
Me: Oh yes. Is that your daughter?
BF: Yes. You were there at the birth!

The (rather less newsworthy) veil of ignorance was lifted from my eyes and I recognised him and his wife. They'd kindly agreed to let me attend the birth of their daughter and share a very personal moment.

We recalled my decision to abide my Magnus Magnusson's motto "I've started so I'll finish" and staying for the full 17-hour duration of the birth as well as my and BF's successful attempt at heading out for lunch during the labour but failed attempt at hiding this from his wife. They had even kept the card I gave them the following day to thank them for making me an honourary family-member for the day.

A new patient means a new Venn diagram and just as I never expected to revisit the painstaking compass-dependent task of drawing them again, I (rather naively perhaps) never anticipated bumping into the grown up versions of one of the many babies I've seen.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Last King of Scotland

Giles Foden's excellent novel 'The Last King of Scotland' depicting the relationship between Idi Amin Dada, the eccentric and brutal Ugandan dictator, and his fictional personal physician, has been translated to the silver screen. It is previewing at this year's London Film Festival (incidentally celebrating its 50th anniversary).

See the trailer here.

All importantly, Peter Bradshaw gives it his thumbs up.

Foden reflects on his inspiration for the novel in a piece for the Guardian in 2003.

Some Idi Amin gems:

To Nixon after cuts in US aid to Uganda

My dear brother, it is quite true that you have enough problems on your plate, and it is surprising you have the zeal to add fresh ones. At this moment you are uncomfortably sandwiched in that uncomfortable affair [Watergate], I ask almighty God to solve your problems. We Ugandans hope that the great United States of America does not continue to use its enormous resources, especially its military might, to destroy human life on earth.
To Lord Snowdon after his split with Princess Margaret

Your experience will be a lesson to all of us men to be careful not to marry ladies in high positions.
On Middle Eastern affairs
Arab victory in the war with Israel is inevitable and prime minister of Israel Mrs Golda Meir's only recourse is to tuck up her knickers and run away in the direction of New York and Washington.

The Price of a Fatwa

$22 in India according to Time magazine:

How much does a fatwa cost? The question should be spiritual, but last week an Indian TV channel aired footage of several Indian Muslim clerics allegedly taking bribes from undercover reporters for issuing the edicts. Among the fatwas bought (for as little as $22) were decrees saying Muslims may not use credit cards or double beds. One cleric issued a fatwa in support of watching TV; another wrote one against.

The cash-for-fatwas scandal has renewed debate on what a fatwa is. Scholars should use the edicts to clarify Islamic law in reply to believers' questions. Many Muslims argue fatwas are misused and misunderstood, and not just by non-Muslims, who usually think of them as calls for the death of alleged blasphemers like Salman Rushdie.

India's Muslim leaders plan to create a body to monitor new fatwas. But Islam has no formal hierarchy or clergy. So who can stop someone from issuing--or buying--a fatwa against the fatwa police?
Wikipedia gives a (surprisingly) nuanced precis of the concept of fatwa and inter alia links to a story highlighting the effective partnership of Proctor & Gamble and the Grand Mufti of Saudi in fighting the counterfeit culture.

The BBC Hijab-Styles Guide

Find out about different styles of Muslim headscarf