Wage Outrage

Italian campaigners  are calling for housewives to be paid a state salary.

The basis for asking for a salary from the state is the idea that the unpaid work at home benefits society in intangible ways, so deserves monetary compensation. I agree that there is a benefit to the society, but I disagree that it is economically intangible.

It is exerted through the working members of the family- in other words, a person doing unpaid work at home makes life better for their partner , who then potentially becomes a more productive employee/worker, earns higher wages, and pays higher taxes.

(I’m not sure if there are any studies supporting this theory, but I’m willing to assume that this does happen.)*

The benefits of a person’s unpaid work at home goes directly to their partner.

Any benefit to the larger society is thus indirect. It is a factor of the economic and social advantages that her partner gets.

This is why I disagree with taxing society- the ‘secondary’ beneficiary –  in order to pay this wage.

I however agree that a wage must be paid- and this must come from the primary beneficiary – the working partner.

I disagree on making this wage legally payable.

A family unit should  be left to negotiate this wage any which way they want- and governmental legislation of personal financial decision making doesn’t exactly make for good economic sense.

Instead, the government could create incentives (in the form of tax breaks?) for workers who share a part of their wages with family members who work solely at home. To claim it, the working partner would demonstrate that assets have been created for their unpaid partner.

 

* ETA- There is plenty of research work on this topic as it turns out. The theory is known as the Spousal Support Theory, and papers on it affect HR and alimony policy.

A meta- analysis which confirms the spousal support theory that I’ve referred to :Career choice in management and entrepreneurship: a research companion. Cheltenham, UK : Edward Elgar, 2007, pp. 101-126.

Full text available at at research website of the London School of Economics (http://eprints.lse.ac.uk)

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Expectations while expecting

Pregnancy is a common enough state of being, but if you stop and think about it, it is a unique state of existence- whether on physiological, philosophical or legal level.

I have wanted to blog about pregnancy for a while now- on the rights and responsibilities of a pregnant woman-as a pediatrician, and as woman who is ‘pro choice’ in the American sense of the word.

On Abortion Rights:

I fully support the right of a woman to terminate her pregnancy upto the period of viability. The age of viability is a medically determined goal-post that keeps shifting (it was 28 weeks a while ago, in certain countries it is 20, in some 22) and denotes the ability of the fetus to survive outside the uterus (with appropriate medical support).

I however do not agree with extending the right to terminate a pregnancy beyond the period of viability- even when the ‘rights’ of the potential human are non existent upto the actual birth. I cannot articulate why exactly I feel this way- morality perhaps?

It goes without saying that late terminations should be permitted when the life/health of the woman is at stake, or when the termination is sought for humane reasons- like birth defects which are fatal or incurable.

On harmful choices made before the baby is born

This includes smoking, drinking and substance abuse during pregnancy. All of these affect the fetus inside the woman, during its development inside the uterus and also its life once it is born. While I believe women should not be subjected to excessive ‘policing’ while pregnant, I have seen first hand the disadvantages some babies are born with, and this informs my views on this issue.

I think appropriate support should be extended towards women in order for them to make better choices and modify their harmful behaviour antenatally. Still, I  think children born with disabilities/disadvantages resulting from maternal alcohol/smoking/substance use should be able to sue their mothers in court.

A landmark claim in the UK is currently being filed to determine if compensation can be claimed from a woman (on behalf of her child) for drinking heavily during pregnancy, causing her child to be born with developmental problems.Obviously, fetuses do not (and should not) have rights, but children do, and all children were once fetuses, so it will be interesting to see if the law can ‘punish’ a woman for ‘poisoning’ her child when he was a fetus.

On choices made during labour:

I’m conflicted on this. Sure, it is the woman’s right to choose et al, but most obstetric decision making in labour is anyway centred first on the woman, and only switches to fetus-centered mode if there is no additional risk to her.

I’ve attended lots of deliveries as a pediatrician to resuscitate babies who were born in suboptimal condition BECAUSE the mother made an anti-cesarean choice in a desire to go ‘all natural’. In the quest for ‘autonomy’ over her method of delivery, I’ve seen a woman’s baby end up severely disabled for life- and it was heartbreaking and enraging, to me, as the baby’s doctor to know that the baby would have ended completely and totally FINE , if not for the C-section refusal.

Decision making goes hand in hand with taking responsibility for that decision, and while I’m sure there is a lot of guilt and horror on a woman’s part when avoidable damage is caused by her decision, the fact remains that it is primarily the child who has to live (or die) with the consequences of that decision.

I’m not sure how I feel about  seeing such children also empowered to take their mothers to court over cases where multiple healthcare professionals advise strongly against/for  an intervention and are over-ruled by the woman in question. I’m worried how punitive it can potentially become. I think holding the woman legally liable in unwarranted because the intent to harm is absent- that happens collaterally.

.

I must clarify that these stances of mine are applicable only to normal pregnancies- and if there is any threat to the woman’s health from pregnancy or labour at any point, right up until the baby is physically outside her body, she (the woman) should come first, no matter what.

Shrinked!*

Remember Dr. Indira Sharma? The President of the Indian Psychiatric Society, who, in December 2013 said homosexuality was ‘unnatural’, on stepping down?

Well well well.

 

 

The World Psychiatric Association also has a new president.

And he’s not only gay, but also Indian 🙂

 

* Like ‘lawyered!’, but for shrinks.

And this is what he has to say-

“There are still countries where it’s seen as an illness. We need to make a stand.”

In Defense of Mallika

A guest post by CNG

Mallika Sherawat has been in the news for calling India a ‘regressive’ and ‘depressing’ place for women, in an interview with Variety magazine at Cannes. The Bollywood fraternity, predictably, has wasted no time ‘slamming’ her for it , in newsspeak. CNG, a friend of mine and the author of this post, rises to defend her- sort of.

In Defense of Mallika

Well, not really. This article is more a commentary about the state of our nation than it is about the marginally successful actress who has managed to attain a level of fame and importance that is well beyond the merit of her talent or work. Everybody knows the story so far. Mallika labeled our nation and its attitude towards women in general to be so “regressive” that she finds it “depressing”.
Not surprisingly, Bollywood was quick to react with many actresses taking offence and clearly expressing discontent. The blogosphere was less forgiving with many self-proclaimed columnists making no effort at hiding their contempt for the actress, even as they mocked her newly acquired, strange, alien accent. However, such attacks don’t work well in any arguments. It is called ad hominem – arguments that are made personally against an opponent and not against the opponent’s argument. It is a strategy that never fails to betray the inner hollow when employed. But as already confessed, this isn’t about what Mallika said, or the right and wrong of it. Not for me. The reactions that followed Miss Sherawat’s comments call for more outrage than her original statements do; and for a number of reasons.
   First and foremost, India is not just the largest democracy in the world, but also has one of the lengthiest constitutions; written to incorporate all the finest elements from the other great constitutions of the other great democracies. Or so we are taught in school. It is a fundamental right we are told. The freedom of speech and expression is guaranteed to every Indian citizen, they have us believe. The words do look inspiring when you are a teenager staring into his book, complete with the four lions of our national emblem adorning and overlooking those very words; promising words indeed. But then, you grow up eventually, and sooner than later, every other day, very often at times, you have this thought in your head, and then you hold back. That is just about it. The thought gains no voice, sees no ink, reaches no audience, and causes no ripple. It just dies like the other thousand that did before.
This is the narrative for every ordinary citizen in this country. Being one among them myself, I feel comfortable voicing my problems about any number of people as long as they are other ordinary citizens. But that is the beginning and end of it. That is all the freedom my country allows me to exercise. Step across that line, and I wouldn’t be sure anymore. A twitter tweet is all that is required before you get into trouble with the law enforcement. It does happen. Though the incidents are few and sparse, sound logic dictates that there should be none at all. Freedom of speech does not have an asterisk attached over its head. It was meant to be unconditional and absolute. This isn’t about a rich and poor divide where different rules apply to different sections. It doesn’t matter where you stand in the hierarchy, every strata comes ready with its own version of what is deemed acceptable. You could be a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist from Bombay, and get away with that scathing article about our Prime Minister; you could probably even get away with attacks on Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi; even Mother Teresa perhaps. But try Lord Ganesha for a change. I know Salman Rushdie couldn’t. Deepa Mehta will vouch for him.
All of this may force you to arrive at the conclusion that the only real threat to this very basic fundamental right is fuelled by religious extremism, but that isn’t the whole truth. India is a country with a very poor record in law enforcement and human rights. The judicial system does little to inspire confidence in public; while hatred, intolerance, violence can all be easily manufactured and propagated by any person or group with a vested interest of its own, not necessarily religious always.
So, here is the question begging to be asked. Why would anybody in his or her right mind talk? It is better to keep your head low and not rub anybody the wrong way. The situation may not be as bleak as my words suggest, but the danger is real. I am not sure about everybody, but I am constantly editing and censoring myself all the time, even as I write this piece. It is the big players that I fear. It is that fear which curtails my expression. However, are we really going to impose this on one another now? It sure does sound like that. We don’t need politicians helping us land in a hot mess anymore. Apparently, even well educated, well traveled, well off fellow citizens would want Mallika to just shut-up already. And that is just unconstitutional to me, only the first of my problems with these folks.
Secondly,in all honesty, you are better off being a man than a woman, regardless of the country you reside in. That is the simple but sad truth.
While the Nordic countries fare exceptionally well in terms of closing in on the gender gap, the rest of the developed world too is trying hard to make amends and bridge this gap. We see constant discussions about gender inequality and its problems. There is a lot of talk surrounding the under-representation of women in government and the top offices of the corporate world. Hillary Clinton has long acknowledged the glass ceiling which still does exist; and she was talking about the United States, not Nigeria. Sheryl Sandberg has had to come out with an entire book addressing women and work place.  The Fair Pay Act may have failed to pass yet again, but America continues to talk about the income inequality between men and women. Same job, same hours, less pay – that is the harsh reality for women in almost every country. Call it what you will, simple disparity or plain regressive, it is all one and the same.
But there appears to be a silver lining when you realize that the majority of the populace is not in denial about this key issue. Not in the first world at least. And that is where our problems multiply in a country like India. Mallika’s statements forced the patriot out in every celebrity. And they came out chest-thumping, flag-waving, and deriding. They need to understand that debate is good. Meaningful dialogue is essential. Only a fool would risk being dismissive about the appalling state of affairs regarding women in India. In a nut-shell- they are not wanted at birth, but the parents shall tolerate them even as they continue to remain hopeful about a future boy; her education is not a priority; her nutrition is less important than that of her brothers; from an early age, her duties include washing, scrubbing, cleaning, mopping; her responsibilities are not limited to self and family, but extends to the community at large; her employment options are dismal; she has no say in her marriage; her husband gets to verbally/physically/sexually abuse her on a regular basis; if not set on fire over dowry harassment, the husband gets to decide on the number of sons he would prefer; she then gets blamed for bearing a daughter; is depressed and over-worked; neglected and under-appreciated, soon to hit menopause. As dreadful as this may sound, a majority of women in India are subjected to all of the above or some of the above. They live through it only because they don’t know any better. Ignorance helps them. But when a smart, educated woman such as Priyanka Chopra tries to discredit Mallika’s statement, I am not sure if she doing anything other than pandering to the media and public.
Priyanka Chopra may have made one sweeping remark claiming that India is indeed a ‘progressive’ state, but then again, this isn’t about class divide. A girl born in rural India is probably going to be battered and bruised for life. My sisters on the other hand will definitely not be battered and bruised; however, they are not allowed to wear certain clothes, or drink certain beverages. Being male, I am of course free to do all of it and some more, even if condoms be necessary. But a girl engaging in pre-marital sex is a whole different matter, regardless of the girl’s standing in society. Unlike my sisters, Miss Chopra may have all the freedom to dress/drink/party as she pleases, but do you really think that when she turns forty-five she would be paired opposite a twenty-something-year-old new male lead in Bollywood. Not a chance in hell-O!!! Meryl Streep gets to work in Hollywood while Rekha and Jaya get to skip Parliament. Why aren’t these two lovely actresses working in cinema today? If Steve Martin can pair-up with Diane Keaton, why can’t Shah Rukh work opposite Juhi? This is regressive. This is depressing.
India is regressive even by Indian standards. I am not bringing up the topic of pregnancy outside wedlock. I am not even talking about legalizing prostitution. Indian women are simply held to a different standard as opposed to the men. Remember that scandal in Karnataka when unsuspecting politicians were caught watching porn while at work? Now imagine if it were female politicians that were caught watching porn while at work. You get my drift, right? Well, note to all the female actresses in Bollywood, the first rule to solving any problem is- don’t do an ostrich! Get your head out of your hole. And stop with the denial.
   Finally, it is time we spoke of shame. It seems to appear that everybody is up in arms against Mallika mostly because she was talking to VARIETY, being interviewed by a firang, while at Cannes. If it were Kiran Bedi that described India as regressive and depressing during one of those segments on NDTV where you have a plethora of experts on the panel, I doubt we would be seeing this reaction. I am not sure why anybody would grant less respect to the words of a beautiful woman. Beauty does not necessarily mean a missing lobe. But, that is another topic for another day. Heading back to the point I was trying to make, Indians are more apologetic than they need to be.  There is no point in painting a rosy picture for the western media. Had Mallika been addressing these same issues in an African country, she would be hailed for her contribution to the cause. If Angelina Jolie were to visit the slums of Bombay and express her shock and sadness at the state of Indian women, the Indian media would again no doubt applaud her. This is a simple case of how the Indian public is not comfortable with an Indian woman talking to an outsider about problems back home. My folks chide me every time I poke fun at their disputes in the presence of visiting friends. The root cause is shame. You feel it only when you know you are in the wrong. My folks know deep down that they shouldn’t be quarreling like cats and dogs. And the Indian public knows of the massive disservice it does to its daughters. And the public feels this shame. You deal with it by battling the problem, not by shooting the messenger. This is who we are. This is us. There is no harm in calling it as it is, and admitting the need for more intervention. That is the only way out of this shame.
   On a closing note, I would like to point two things. Yes, India is hypocritical as Mallika claims. Of course, more than half our population would pick the sunny sands of Los Angeles over the crowded Chowpattis of Bombay. Mallika was only brave enough to say it out loud. Secondly, she is wrong when she claims that India is a regressive country for women. India is just regressive, period.

Open Letter to Tipsy Andhra Ladies

Dear Ladies of AP

It with great sorrow that I write to you. It pains me to hear of your behaviour, which has forced your kind and benevolent government to step in and take measures, which I’m sure you’ll agree , are for your own good.

Thanks to your fondness for the tipple, you will now have to leave pubs,clubs, and bars a whole hour before men do. And rightly so.

In a region with big, big problems like separatist demands, communal tensions, terrorism, and even Naxalism, shame on you for drinking so much and diverting the attention and resources of the authorities.They will now have to spend time, money and energy on making sure you do not drink after 10 pm.

In the rest of the country, and the world in general, MEN account for the majority of drink-related offences. Your police force, and your government, on the other hand,apparently have statistics to prove that in Andhra, drunken women are the bigger law and order problem! Just how wild are you girls?!

I sincerely hope you ladies will mend your ways, and behave in a manner that will not tarnish the image of Indian women. As you know quite well, the honour of your families, your state, and your country are all in your hands. Hands which were meant for cooking, doing pooja, bathing children and pressing the feet of elders. Hands which are today holding bottles, shot glasses and all manner of stemware! Oh , the shame!

Begrudgingly yours,

DD

 

In the loop.

In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, the Islamophobic backlash is just beginning.

I came across an interesting article in this context.The author makes three points- (in case you’re thinking TL,DR):

1. There exists a ‘positive feedback loop’ between anti-western/anti-islam ideologies

2. Moderate Muslims should do their bit by speaking out and condemning radical Islam, as currently, outrage seems to be directed selectively against ‘injustices’ -like offensive cartoons/movies

3. The West should also actively abandon an Islamophobic attitude to further weaken the loop.

While I completely agree with the article in its entirety, I think the realisation of the writer’s second point will be extremely difficult-

First, because the ‘moderates’ and the ‘extremists’ are two distinct groups. Extremists are far more ‘visible’ because they actively participate in acts of dissent. Moderates are ordinary folks going about their daily lives-presumably the kind who have better things to do than to stage defensive protests. They are far more likely to register their disapproval in less visible ways- in articles, in conversations, perhaps even on social media- which makes their collective voice much more harder to discern. That is why you will see protests against cartoons- but none against fatwas.

The narrative of the ‘moderate Muslim condemning the radical Muslim’ is unfortunately inconspicuous in major media because of it’s dissipated, unorganised, individual nature. Discounting it’s very existence however, is wrong.

Second, the dissemination of radical ideology is probably spreading at a rate  faster than the moderates can keep it in check. The reason for this is numbingly simple- the ‘radicals’ have Wahhabi backers and limitless sources of funding, while the moderates do not. Moderate imams, mosques and madrassas are actively being ‘recruited’ into the cause of extremists using petrodollars. Take this for example. Or this. Of course you can hope that nobody buys into their brand of Islam, but the truth is that there are enough disenchanted souls who will be seduced by this increasingly pervasive rhetoric.

In the end, it boils down to simple, cynical truths- money matters. So does PR. At present ‘moderate’ Muslims- despite their best intentions- do not possess the former, and aren’t organised enough to meaningfully consider the latter.

And that’s why the third point becomes all the more important. Although the author meant for it to apply to government policy, it is literally the only thing we can do as individuals-ease up on the hard feelings.

As I write this, the law enforcement authorities in Boston are continuing the hunt for “White Hat”, the second suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings.

I’ve never said this before, but I have a sibling who lives in the Greater Boston area. She lives very close to where the certain events took place last night/this morning- close enough to send me extremely worrying photos. She’s since been escorted out of her building by the Boston Police, but spent an hour in a state of significant worry, knowing (and seeing) that there were gunmen literally right outside where she was. Luckily, she was not alone , and luckily, the action subsequently shifted elsewhere. Luckily, at the time,( she and I ) were oblivious to the fact that these men were the terrorists of the Boston Marathon- I’m sure that would have caused more panic.She’s been in touch with me on and off. But honestly, I cannot wait for this chase to end. And this terrorist attack- in a far away city- has turned personal in an unimaginable way . It makes my stomach churn to think that these men were close enough to her that she was sure that would try to enter her building. It makes me sick to think that she spent a whole sixty minutes in fear.

I wondered about blogging about this. I wanted to vent, I guess.