Sabtu, 28 Disember 2013

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The Star Online: Metro: Sunday Metro

Candle-light vigils as India remembers gang-rape victim

Posted: 28 Dec 2013 07:33 PM PST

NEW DELHI: India on Sunday marks 12 months since the death of a student savagely gang-raped on a Delhi bus - an episode that sparked nationwide protests - with candle-light vigils and prayers.

The 23-year-old physiotherapy student died on December 29 last year, nearly two weeks after being brutally attacked by a gang of six men on a moving bus as she returned home from the cinema with a male companion.

The attack and her subsequent death shook the country, shone a global spotlight on India's treatment of women and unleashed seething public anger about sexual violence and harassment of women.

The victim's family will hold a religious ceremony in their ancestral village in northern Uttar Pradesh state, away from the constant media attention they have faced since the attack, her brother said.

"We want to remember her in a quiet way, away from all the glare. We want it to be a private, family moment," the brother, who cannot be named for legal reasons, told AFP.

The family will follow traditional Hindu rituals on Sunday, with a prayer ceremony and symbolic offerings made to their ancestors, which are believed to bring peace to those who have died.

The student, who was repeatedly assaulted with an iron rod during her ordeal, has been praised for her determination to report her attackers to the police before she died of her injuries. 

Four of her attackers were convicted and given the death penalty in September after the case was fast-tracked, while a juvenile was sentenced to a detention centre.

The sixth convict died in prison in March in an apparent suicide.

The angry and sometimes violent protests against the attack jolted India's parliament, which this year passed tougher laws against rapists and other sex-crime offenders.

Women's groups say some improvements have also been made in the last 12 months to India's notoriously slow, inefficient and sometimes corrupt police and judicial systems, which has encouraged some victims to report sexual crimes against them.

In the capital on Sunday, scores of students, professionals and others were slated to gather at Jantar Mantar, a protest site in the city's centre, where a makeshift memorial has been set up for the victim.

Small lamps, candles and flowers will be placed around the memorial before a peaceful vigil in the evening, one of several expected to take place across the city.

One of the organisers said women who turn up at Jantar Mantar will be encouraged to share their own experiences of violence and discuss societal changes that have taken place since the student's death.

"We need to remind the society that sex crimes won't be tolerated anymore," student Ishaan Ahmed told AFP. -AFP

Forget Mr Right, some prefer Mr Can Do

Posted: 28 Dec 2013 08:00 AM PST

The sharp rise in the number of Singaporeans marrying foreign women in the past decade has resulted in various challenges.

VIETNAMESE bride Nhi, 22, chose to marry a Singaporean hawker twice her age despite strong objections from her father about the whirlwind union, which was arranged by a marriage broker.

"I actually had a boyfriend in Vietnam, but I knew that if I married a Vietnamese, the most he could do would be to take care of me only. He wouldn't have been able to take care of my family," she told researchers.

"Not all the girls who married Singaporeans can support their families in Vietnam, but at least, they are well taken care of and they have an easy life for themselves."

Then there is Puk, a 35-year-old Thai who used all her savings to fly to Singapore to hunt for a husband and a better life.

A friend introduced her to a Singaporean man at a pub, and after a few months of courtship, she urged him to marry her. During that time, he regularly gave her money to spend.

"At that time, I did not love him but gradually, I came to love him because he always took care of me," said Puk. They are now married, and he gives her S$350 (RM900) to send home every month.

In the past decade, there has been a sharp jump in the number of Singaporeans marrying foreign women, so considerable research is emerging on the lives and problems faced by foreign brides here.

Last year, 5,599 Singaporeans wed foreign women who were not citizens or permanent residents – a 40% jump from 2002.

Some research papers have shed light on why foreign women plunged into matrimony with Singaporeans they hardly knew.

No prizes for guessing that most just wanted a better life.

But more than that, many also hoped that their husbands would help support their families back home and lift their loved ones out of poverty as well.

Thai researcher Rattana Jongwilaiwan, together with Associate Professor Eric Thompson of the sociology department at the National University of Singapore (NUS), wrote a journal paper, published in 2011, about the lives of Thai women married to Singa­poreans.

Jongwilaiwan spent more than a year interacting extensively with the Thai wives and did 22 in-depth interviews with them.

"The Thai women interviewed consistently and frankly stated that their primary reason in choosing to marry Singaporean men was material gain and not romantic love," the paper said.

"For many women, it is seemingly the best among available strategies for achieving upward mobility and socioeconomic status, and to fulfil traditional cultural expectations as dutiful daughters."

Most of the women had moved from their homes in rural areas to cities such as Bangkok to find work – some in the sex trade – before meeting their Singaporean grooms in Thailand or Singapore.

Apart from being better off financially, Singaporean men are also regarded as being more loving and responsible husbands, compared with their counterparts elsewhere in the region.

The Thai women interviewed described Thai men as being abusive, womanisers, financially irresponsible, gamblers and alcohol addicts.

More recent papers have examined another aspect of such unions. In the past two months, three journal papers have been published based on a three-year study of Vietnamese women who married Singaporean and Malaysian men after they were introduced by commercial matchmakers.

The papers were written by Professor Brenda Yeoh of the geography department at NUS and a team of researchers that included Dr Chee Heng Leng and Dr Vu Thi Kieu Dung.

Different aspects of the women's lives were studied, from their expectations of love to the importance of sending money home to the problems they face here.

In the interviews, the Singaporean men hardly spoke of love either in their choice of a wife.

They wanted a companion and someone to care for them, look after their parents and do the housework.

What was important to the women was being able to send money home – an act that boosted their self-esteem and their standing in the family.

Take Thach, 19, who feels trapped in a marriage to a man she does not love. Yet, she is grateful to her husband, a security guard in his 50s, because he helped her pay off her family's debts and enabled her mother to start a small business.

Or 25-year-old Bich, who speaks proudly of her husband, a driver twice her age who paid off her family's S$20,000 (RM50,000) loan and gives her mother S$500 (RM1,300) every month.

The paper notes that these marriages are "not necessarily less sustainable or more fragile".

The authors say: "There is no simple trading of money for care, or care for money."

Couples are "keenly aware of the fluid nature of the negotiated relationship at stake", and they put in time and effort to make the marriage work.

They know the roles expected of them – breadwinner husband, dutiful stay-at-home wife, mother and daughter-in-law – and they try to play their parts conscientiously.

Not surprisingly, the husbands are usually not keen to have their wives join the workforce.

Such relationships might puzzle the Singaporean woman looking for love, passion and Mr Right.

But for many women from countries in the region, romantic love is not the core issue. As a Vietnamese woman once told me, romantic love is a Western concept – a luxury she and others like her cannot afford.

Instead of hunting in vain for that elusive Mr Right, they settle for Mr Can Do. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network

Minister: Little India rioters stayed in approved conditions

Posted: 28 Dec 2013 08:00 AM PST

THE workers allegedly involved in the Little India riot were staying in approved dormitories, according to Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin.

"While substandard worker housing does exist here, the rioters stayed in those which meet official standards," he told Bloomberg TV in an interview aired on Friday.

"From what is known so far, the workers had no particular employment disputes that may have contributed to the riot," he said in the interview, which also covered issues such as productivity and politics.

On foreign labour curbs, he said these were similar to government policies to cool a strong property market: "You don't know exactly at which point it will bite and you don't want to overdo it."

He added that the curbs seemed to be taking effect. As the economy restructures, there are some "positive glimpses" in productivity figures for the third quarter of this year.

When asked what former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew's "deepest imprint" on Singapore was, Tan named a largely corruption-free system and a government "prepared to make the calls".

Even as Singapore evolves and political pressures mount, the government remains mindful of the danger of becoming populist.

"Listening to people, engaging, isn't about being populist," he noted. "But making a policy, still believing that it's in the best interests of the people, remains sacrosanct."

However, he does not resent the changing landscape. "A questioning, challenging electorate keeps us on our toes.

"As for the People's Action Party itself, it still has the support of many," he added.

Meanwhile, civil society group Workfair Singapore has called on the Committee of Inquiry, set up to investigate the riot, to deliberate in public and at a publicly accessible venue. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network


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