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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

In Bali the Mentally Ill Are Treated Like Animals

In Madagascar Twins Are Considered to Be Bad Luck

Bad luck babies: The twins abandoned in Madagascar because of black magic superstitions


Tiny babies are abandoned in villages because Amtambahoaka tribe believe twins are a curse that will bring death to their families

Eyes screwed up tight, she forces out a tiny weak cry as I cradle her. Weighing only 3lb, there is barely enough of this premature baby to fill the palms of my hands.
In the UK, her precarious start to life would be deemed unlucky even in the protective warmth of a UK hospital ­incubator with a loving family around her.
But here in Madagascar, an island haunted by black magic and taboos, this child’s sinister misfortune runs much deeper than that.
There is no incubator to protect her. Only a tatty mosquito net. There is no loving mum and family. Only flies circling her cot.
She is a Bad Luck Baby. Abandoned by her frightened mother simply because she was a twin – a quirk of nature seen here as a terrifying curse.
The elders of her Amtambahoaka tribe believe raising twins brings misfortune, even death, to their families.
In the past, newborn siblings were often taken out into the bush and left there to die. Today, civilisation has made some inroads into the remote south east corner of this island state off the coast of Africa.
Most end up in centres where they are put up for adoption. Many go on to start new lives in France, Italy, Sweden and Canada.
But the dark ages-old taboo out in the bush remains unbreakable. And as a mother, cradling this little victim whose sibling had already died, I want to find out how superstition can be stronger than the maternal bond to a child.
Orphaned twins in Madagascar
Orphaned: Twins in Madagascar
  That is why I am here with Channel 4’s Unreported World TV documentary team investigating the extraordinary story of the Amtambahoaka twins.
The nurse who handed the baby to me at a fly-blown hospital in the coastal city of Mananjary tells me the child’s mother lives in a village which is a a three-hour ride away on a bumpy speedboat down the Panagalanes canal.
When we get there, the villagers tell us the young woman who had given birth to twins was already back out in the fields planting rice.
Her name is Cecile, and she is 20 years old. She looks frightened when we approach her but Cecile, her husband Adreobert and her mother agree to talk at the tiny wooden hut that is their home.
Cecile tells us that, with no ante-natal care at all, she had no idea she was carrying two babies. “When they were born I was shocked,” she says.
“And scared for her life,” her husband Adreobert cuts in. While I was trying to understand her fear, I saw a tell-tale dark patch of leaking breast-milk growing on her T-shirt.
Just talking about the tiny babies she felt forced to give away was making her body produce breast milk.
“We want to keep our twins,” Cecile’s mother tells us. “But it is up to the chiefs. If it changes we will keep our babies. But if not, we will have to keep abandoning them.”
We are determined to meet the tribal chiefs responsible so we can ask them why they promote a taboo that tears families apart. But they don’t see it that way.
At a gathering of the senior elders of the Antambahoaka, one of the oldest tells me bluntly: “Keeping twins is like eating your own s**t.”
Yet villagers are starting to rebel. On the outskirts of Mananjary, we visit seven defiant families, all with twins. They live in makeshift tents after being forced to leave their villages as outcasts.
One mum there, Carolin, must be the unluckiest woman in Madagascar – she has three sets of twins.
She says: “We had to move over 30 times before we came here, because people think that even renting us a home with twins will bring bad luck.
“Most of my family would ignore me if they saw me on the street – but nothing will ever make me give up my babies.”
Across the city there is a centre for abandoned children where more than a dozen pairs of twins are currently being given shelter. Since it opened in 1987, hundreds of twins have passed through its doors. Julie Rasoarimanana, who runs the centre, tells me not a single parent has ever returned to reclaim their children.
A few days later, back at the hospital, we discover that our surviving Bad Luck Baby’s luck has changed. She has been adopted by Juliet, a local schoolteacher from a different tribe who named her Nvayo, which means “to rise”’.
On our last day in Mananjary, we visit Nyavo in her new home, where her new mother is gently rocking her to sleep.
For this twin at least, good fortune has defeated superstition.
  • Unreported World: The Cursed Twins is on Channel 4, Friday May 9, at 7.30pm

Monday, September 26, 2016

South Asia's 'disposable women'


  • 7 hours ago
  • From the section UK
Image copyright Getty Images
A new report has called for the practice of some British Asian men mistreating women and leaving them soon after getting married in South Asia, to be treated as a form of domestic violence.
Academics at the University of Lincoln have discovered that these men have been taking thousands of pounds from their new wife's family and using the women as domestic slaves for their in-laws.
These "disposable women", as the report calls them, are also often physically abused and then abandoned either once they have moved to the UK, or - more commonly - while still in India.
Some are brought temporarily to the UK but later taken on a pretend holiday back to India, where they have their passport taken away.
Many women hide the fact that this has happened to them, so academics spent more than a year finding 57 women in India who had experienced the phenomenon and would share their stories.

Dream wedding

Marriage for Sunita, not her real name, began how she had always dreamed it would in a grand venue in India's Punjab region, with hundreds of guests and a beautiful red dress.
"Everything was great," she says, as she runs through photos of her big day on her phone.
After the wedding, her new husband stayed with her for a month in India before returning to his home in the UK. Sunita expected him to come back to India shortly afterwards and take her back to live with him there, but things then started to go wrong.

"It was coming up to a year and he still didn't return," she says. "I asked him many times 'Come back to India, when are you coming?' but he would just say 'Not now, another time'.
"He demanded a lot from me too. At times 'give money' and at other times 'give furniture'."
Sunita's husband eventually stopped talking to her on the phone. She hasn't seen him since and has also since found out he was already married to another woman in the UK.
As is common in India, and some other countries in South Asia, Sunita's family had given her husband's family almost £3,000, as well as around £4,000 in gold as a dowry - money or goods given by the wife's family to the husband's when they get married.

Find out more

The Victoria Derbyshire programme is broadcast on weekdays between 09:00 and 11:00 on BBC Two and the BBC News channel.

Sunita says her husband and in-laws were also physically abusive towards her.
"When I used to question if he had a wife [in the UK], and why did he marry me - they would beat me just for asking."
Her family is not rich and her father is watching on as she speaks, clearly devastated by what has happened. He spent thousands of pounds on a marriage he thought would give his daughter a happy future.
"I'm very upset. I'm finding it hard to talk about. He made [sexual] relations with me, my life is ruined," she says.
 Dr Sundari Anitha
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Dr Sundari Anitha says the stigma surrounding abandoned wives is "massive"
Researchers point out that this problem also exists in Pakistan and Bangladesh - countries where marriages to people living in the UK, the US, Canada, and other nations with a large South Asian diaspora are common.
Dr Sundari Anitha, from the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Lincoln, spoke to women personally affected on a number of trips to Punjab, Delhi and Gujarat in India.
She met women who had paid as much as £25,000 in dowry before being abandoned, women raped by their new husbands, some who were used to have a child and then abandoned and others left in India to act as carers and domestic slaves for their in-laws.
She says patriarchal culture in South Asia means being abandoned can ruin a woman's life.
"The stigma is massive and it even has an impact on other people in the family. So a woman's sister will find it harder to get married. She will find it harder to get a job, she faces financial insecurity and she's seen as damaged goods - primarily because the assumption is she's had sex."
The report recommends that the British state recognises abandonment as a form of domestic violence and offers protection to women "disposed of" by British men, even if they never travel to the UK.
Pragna Patel
Image caption Pragna Patel says recognising abandonment as domestic abuse will improve legal rights
Pragna Patel, director of campaign group Southall Black Sisters, worked with academics on the study and says this would offer recourse to some sort of justice for women who at the moment have none.
The group says that the constituent parts of abandonment - such as blackmail, fraud, emotional abuse, financial abuse, controlling and coercive behaviour and domestic servitude - can be prosecuted under existing laws, but that "few, if any, perpetrators face any consequences".
The victims may be unaware of their rights or feel too ashamed or frightened to report their abuse, it is suggested.
Ms Patel explains, however, that "once it is recognised as domestic violence then all the legal avenues that should be open to women either to seek protection or prosecution, or other legal remedies, would be available to abandoned women".
She says that in the last month, staff at Southall Black Sisters have encountered a case in which a man had married and abandoned five different women - each time profiting financially.
"It's like a business for him," she says. "The perpetrators are British nationals. If the British state turns a blind eye or is indifferent to this abuse then it is contributing to this culture of impunity - these men are not held to account by anyone.
"We have to wake up to the fact that violence in transnational spaces is a new and emerging form of violence against women."
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