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Society

India’s Women Are Fighting Air Pollution — And The Patriarchy

India is one of the world's worst countries for air pollution, with women more likely to be affected by the problem than men. Now, experts and activists are fighting to reframe pollution as a gendered health crisis.

MUMBAI In New Delhi, a city that has topped urban air-pollution charts in recent years, Shakuntala describes a discomfort that has become too familiar. Surrounded by bricks and austere buildings, she tells an interviewer: "The eyes burn and it becomes difficult to breathe". She is referring to the noxious fumes she routinely breathes as a construction worker.

Like Shakuntala, women’s experiences of polluted air fill every corner of their lives – inside homes, in parks and markets, on the way to work. Ambient air in most districts in India has never been worse than it is today. As many as 1.67 million people in the country die prematurely due to polluted air. It is India’s second largest health risk after malnutrition.

This risk of exposure to air pollution is compounded for women. Their experiences of toxic air are more frequent and often more hazardous. Yet “policies around air quality have not yet adequately taken into account gender or other factors that might influence people’s health,” Pallavi Pant, a senior scientist at the Health Effects Institute, a nonprofit in the U.S., told The Wire Science.

“It’s unacceptable that the biggest burden [rests on] those who can least bear it,” Sherebanu Frosh, an activist, added. People like her are building a unique resistance within India.

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Injecting Feminism Into Science Is A Good Thing — For Science

Feminists have generated a set of tools to make science less biased and more robust. Why don’t more scientists use it?

-Essay-

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, a mystery played out across news headlines: Men, it seemed, were dying of infection at twice the rate of women. To explain this alarming disparity, researchers looked to innate biological differences between the sexes — for instance, protective levels of sex hormones, or distinct male-female immune responses. Some even went so far as to test the possibility of treating infected men with estrogen injections.

This focus on biological sex differences turned out to be woefully inadequate, as a group of Harvard-affiliated researchers pointed out earlier this year. By analyzing more than a year of sex-disaggregated COVID-19 data, they showed that the gender gap was more fully explained by social factors like mask-wearing and distancing behaviors (less common among men) and testing rates (higher among pregnant women and health workers, who were largely female).

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Papá, Papá, On Repeat: Are We Men Ready For Fatherhood To Change Our Lives?

How many men are willing to change their lives when they become fathers? For Argentine journalist Ignacio Pereyra, becoming his son's main caregiver showed just how difficult caring for a child can be.

There is a moment on Saturday or Sunday, after having spent ten hours with my kids, that I get a little exasperated, I lose my patience. I find it hard to identify the emotion, I definitely feel some guilt too. I know that time alone with them improves our relationship... but I get bored! Yes, I feel bored. I want some time in the car for them to talk to each other while I can talk about the stupid things we adults talk about.

This is what a friend tells me. He tends to spend several weekends alone with his two children and prefers to make plans with other people instead of being alone with them. As I listened to him, I immediately remembered my long days with Lorenzo, my son, now three-and-a-half years old. I thought especially of the first two-and-a-half years of his life, when he hardly went to daycare (thanks, COVID!) and we’d spend the whole day together.

It also reminded me of a question I often ask myself in moments of boredom — which I had virtually ignored in my life before becoming a father: how willing are we men to let fatherhood change our lives?

It is clear that the routines and habits of a couple change completely when they have children, although we also know that this rarely happens equally.

With the arrival of a child, men continue to work as much or more than before, while women face a different reality: either they double their working day — maintaining a paid job but adding household and care tasks — or they are forced to abandon all or part of their paid work to devote themselves to caregiving.

In other words, "the arrival of a child tends to strengthen the role of economic provider in men (...), while women reinforce their role as caregivers," says an extensive Equimundo report on Latin America and the Caribbean, highlighting a trend that repeats itself in most Western countries.

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We Don’t Need More Women Leaders Like These

September 17-18

  • In Kharkiv, 43 seconds from the rocket launchers
  • Eternal youth IRL
  • Doggies on the run
  • … and much more.
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Society
Lila Paulou

A Closer Look At "The French Roe" And The State Of Abortion Rights In France

In 1972, Marie-Claire Chevalier's trial paved the way for the legalization of abortion in France, much like Roe v. Wade did in the U.S. soon after. But as the Supreme Court overturned this landmark decision on the other side of the Atlantic, where do abortion rights now stand in France?

PARIS — When Marie-Claire Chevalier died in January, French newspapers described her role in the struggle for abortion rights as an important part of what’s become the rather distant past. Yet since the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade in the United States, Chevalier’s story has returned to the present tense.

A high school student in 1971, Chevalier was raped by a classmate, and faced an unwanted pregnancy. With the help of her mother and three other women, the 16-year-old obtained an abortion, which was illegal in France. With all five women facing arrest, Marie-Claire’s mother Michèle decided to contact French-Tunisian lawyer Gisèle Halimi who had defended an Algerian activist raped and tortured by French soldiers in a high-profile case.

Marie-Claire bravely agreed to turn her trial into a platform for all women prosecuted for seeking an abortion. Major social figures testified on her behalf, from feminist activist Simone de Beauvoir to acclaimed poet Aimé Césaire. The prominent Catholic doctor Paul Milliez, said, “I do not see why us, Catholics, should impose our moral to all French people.”

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Society
Beatriz de Vera

Hysterical To Hypersexual: Bogus Female Diseases Have Always Held Women Down

Throughout history, women have been overdiagnosed with mainly psychiatric ailments and syndromes that have already been ruled out, from hysteria to nymphomania. This distorted portrait, which had its golden age in the 19th century, has been questioned in recent decades by the research community.

"Born weak and sensitive, the woman, faithful companion of man, deserves the most lively interest and presents a vast field for the meditations of philosophers and doctors." This is how the Treatise on the Diseases of Women begins, a text from 1844 that aims to be an update of everything known by medicine about women to date.

The "fair sex" or the "angel in the house" were names used by some scientists of the 19th century, who underpinned the notion of the "weaker sex" in the collective imagination to refer to women.

“The physical modifications that constitute the beauties of women are in inverse proportion to those that constitute those of men. The features of her face have fine and pleasant proportions, her feet are smaller and her hands are delicate, her arms, thighs and legs are thicker, the muscles of all her limbs are sweetly demarcated with undulating lines”, writes the doctor Baltasar de Viguera in Female physiology and pathology (1827).

For De Viguera, who recounted the sensitivity and delicacy in forms, senses and character of women, their qualities had to do with "the organs of the womb."

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Society
Ignacio Pereyra*

Invisible Work: The Weight Of A Family That Men Don’t See

A father’s role is not to help the mother out, but to take on the “mental load” of knowing what needs to be done.

Last winter in Greece, I ended up spending several full days with Lorenzo, my now three-year-old son, because he had been sick and could not attend daycare. My wife is the main breadwinner in the house and I am the one who gets to leave behind work in case there are emergencies like that.

When Lorenzo got better, we went to a café in the outskirts of Athens. I envisioned a win-win situation where I could have a break — eat lunch, check emails, answer some messages — while he could play in an area designed for children — with a ball pit, tables for drawing and painting, a book corner… how important it is to have such spaces!

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Society
Sukanya Shantha

India Faces Eternally Complex Child-Care Question: What To Do With Kids Of Women Prisoners

While growing up inside a prison leads to a range of difficulties for children, those separated from their mothers and left on the outside also face different traumas. In this in-depth reportage for India's The Wire, journalist Sukanya Shantha talks to mothers who had to give birth in jail and those who went without seeing their children for years to keep them protected.

MUMBAI — Raginibai was at the construction site when a large police search team came looking for her. Her husband was found brutally murdered, and his body — wrapped in a jute bag — had been buried several feet under the construction debris close by. The police suspected that Raginibai, along with a man they claimed was her “lover,” was involved in the murder. Raginibai denied this charge vehemently.

But at that moment, neither her husband’s death nor the police’s suspicion could unsettle her. The well-being of her five-year-old son, who shadowed her everywhere at the construction site in Taloja, on the outskirts of Mumbai, was all that she worried about.

Raginibai, a landless migrant labourer and a Dalit woman from Kalahandi — one of the most backward districts in the eastern Indian state of Odisha — feared that the police would take her child away and she would never be able to see him again. In desperation, she requested that the police hand her child over to a person she claimed was her sister. This was a claim that the police was legally bound to — yet never bothered to — independently ascertain.

Raginibai was arrested on November 15, 2019. She was pregnant at the time. She gave birth to a girl, her third child, inside an overcrowded Kalyan district jail, over 50 km away from Mumbai city.

Her eldest, a 12-year-old daughter, was away at Raginibai’s mother’s house in Odisha at the time of the arrest. With no parental support or financial backing, her daughter had to drop out of school and is now being forced into child labor in a paddy field, many kilometers outside her village.

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Society
Fortune Moyo*

The Women In Zimbabwe Building Gender Equality, Brick By Brick

The pandemic has accelerated generational shifts as more women in Zimbabwe join the once male-dominated construction industry.

VICTORIA FALLS - Last year, Charity Nyoni walked by a group of men who were painting a house and asked if she could help.

They laughed.

When she insisted, the team’s leader agreed to let her join them the next time.victoria

“When I arrived at the said place, the men were shocked,” Nyoni says. “I held a paintbrush for the first time in my life, I enjoyed it, and I have never looked back.”

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Society
Igal Avidan

For Orthodox Jewish Women, Cinema Inspires A Silent Revolution

Orthodox women are not allowed to go to the cinema and their film screenings are often interrupted by protesters. But in Israel, there is a booming audience for their films and a big cultural shift is happening.

In 1994, the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires was the target of a terror attack that killed 85 people and injured 300 others, most of whom were Jewish. The perpetrators were never identified, probably for political reasons. Shattered, a new film by Israeli director Dina Perlstein, follows Argentinian Jewish prosecutor Anna, who lost her father in the attack, as she searches for the truth. She is joined by a young Israeli Orthodox Jew, Yael, whose older sister was also killed in the attack. Their journey will bring a long-buried secret to light and change their lives forever.

The film, which was recently shown at the Jewish Film Festival Berlin Brandenburg, is unusual. Like Perlstein’s 14 other films, the three-hour long production only features women – most of them Jewish. Perlstein is the first and best known female Orthodox Jewish filmmaker in Israel and she also makes English-language films that are shown at special screenings for Orthodox Jewish women in the USA.

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Migrant Lives
Sara Perria, Monica Perosino

Taliban To Traffickers — The Perilous Journey Of Women Fleeing Afghanistan

Staying in a theocracy whose rulers subjugate women was not an option, but trying to get to destinations in Europe and beyond comes with unthinkable perils of its own.

ATHENS — Hariana* always knew that fleeing Afghanistan would not be easy. But it turned out far worse than that.

Now 29, she fled to Iran with her family two years ago, but was sexually assaulted by her employer in Tehran. That prompted her to leave on her own for Europe. Hariana found herself as the only woman following a smuggler on a perilous journey that would be on foot, by bus and by sea.

"Once on the bus I looked around and got scared," she recalled. "The trafficker told me to get off. He wanted me for himself."

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Society
Sara Reardon KHN

End Of Roe v. Wade Is Major Blow For Prenatal Genetic Screening

For families learning their child will be born with a debilitating condition, new legal issues create additional trauma.

Ann was 15 weeks pregnant with her fourth child when the results of her prenatal genetic test came back last August. The test suggested that her daughter, whom she and her husband planned to name Juliet, was missing one of her two X chromosomes — a condition called Turner syndrome that can cause dwarfism, heart defects, and infertility, among other complications.

Many people decide to terminate their pregnancies after this diagnosis, a genetic counselor told Ann and her husband. But the counselor had more bad news: In two days, the family would no longer have that option in their home state of Texas. A law, in effect as of Sept. 1, 2021, allows anyone to sue those who assist any person in getting an abortion in Texas after six weeks’ gestation — and the state provides a $10,000 bounty to plaintiffs if they win. The genetic counselor told Ann she could no longer discuss termination with her for this reason.

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