Archive for the ‘Employment Work’ Category

The number of sexual harassment cases among civil service employees rose 40 percent last year, according to the annual report released by the Civil Service Commission’s disciplinary division.

Over the year, 125 sexual harassment files were opened compared with 90 the year before. As recently as three years ago, the annual figure was 65. Of the 125 cases filed last year, 20 were filed with the disciplinary court for civil service employees.

The executive director general of the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel, Michal Rozin, said highly publicized cases encourage victims of sexual harassment to file complaints. Such cases include the allegations of sexual misconduct against police commissioner candidate Uri Bar-Lev, and the trial and conviction of former President Moshe Katsav on rape and other charges.

“We have seen this reflected in a substantial way in the flood of phone calls to rape crisis centers and to our emergency hotlines beginning on Thursday morning when the verdict in the Katsav case was announced,” Rozin said. “We have just been swamped with calls in the past several days.”

Some observers say more complainants came forward in 2010 after Orly Innes’ complaint filed with the Civil Service Commission. Innes said she was sexually harassed by the outgoing director general of the Public Security Ministry, Hagai Peleg.

The report from the Civil Service Commission, which was recently provided to the Justice Ministry, shows that the Education Ministry suffered the largest number of complaints in 2010. That year, 26 files were opened, compared with 12 the year before.

The Health Ministry had the second largest number of complaints, 23, followed by the Israel Postal Company and the Israel Broadcasting Authority, which each had eight.

Agencies with smaller numbers of complaints included the court administration, the Nuclear Research Center and educational television, with one each. The Prime Minister’s Office was the source of two complaints.

Rozin said high-profile sexual misconduct cases such as the Katsav case or the case involving former minister Haim Ramon’s kissing of a female soldier revive painful memories among victims. Many of these victims then feel the need to talk about what they went through.

Rozin said the Katsav case had a major impact. She said that a survey conducted in 2010 showed that 40 percent of women experience sexual harassment at the workplace.

Attorney Rachel Toren, who represented Innes, agreed that media coverage of sexual misconduct cases encourages other victims to come forward. She cautioned, however, that not every complaint is well-founded.

Innes not only filed a complaint against Peleg, but also went public with allegations against Uri Bar-Lev, who withdrew his candidacy as police commissioner following allegations of sexual misconduct by Innes and another women.

Tziona Koenig-Yair, who heads the equal employment opportunity commission at the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry, said publicized cases involving sexual harassment cause an increase in the number of complaints filed. But some people dispute this, she said.

“The message that has come from labor courts over the past year and from the judicial system as a whole is a message encouraging women to file sexual harassment complaints,” she said.

Campaign in Turkey about Women’s paid & unpaid labor

We would like to inform you about a campaign started in Turkey, in 5 different cities including Istanbul. The campaign will take one year and will be run by Socialist Feminist Collective

Main theme of the campaign is to highlight women’s double shift between unpaid and paid labor and clarify our demands from men, capitalists and state. Below you may find the video of preparations and the public announcement in English

We want back the hours, Days and Years we have spent on housework! We want back our due in the house!

We are calling on women to stop doing any housework until we are paid back our due. We want housework to be men’s work. Cooking, laundry, ironing, dish washing… Let men do the housework, day in and day out, for hours on end.

Let the fathers care for their children: Prepare them for school in the morning, prepare their meal in the evening and help them with their homework. When the kids are ill, let the fathers leave work and run home to look after them.

On the weekend, let the fathers take the kids to their leisure activities, go searching in the markets for cheap, healthy, nourishing food, go back to pick them back with their arms loaded.

Let sons care for their elderly mothers and fathers. Let them look after their parents when they are ill; let them remember to remind them when to take their pills; let them remember to give them baths…

While we women are watching TV in the evening, let men put the kettle on, put the kids to sleep and make the necessary preparations for he next day.

Let men learn how to share other people’s problems and to establish proper relations with their own fathers and sons.

We want back our due in the house!

We are calling on women to stop doing any housework until we are paid back our due. We want housework to be men’s work. Cooking, laundry, ironing, dish washing… Let men do the housework, day in and day out, for hours on end.

Let the fathers care for their children: Prepare them for school in the morning, prepare their meal in the evening and help them with their homework. When the kids are ill, let the fathers leave work and run home to look after them.

On the weekend, let the fathers take the kids to their leisure activities, go searching in the markets for cheap, healthy, nourishing food, go back to pick them back with their arms loaded.

Let sons care for their elderly mothers and fathers. Let them look after their parents when they are ill; let them remember to remind them when to take their pills; let them remember to give them baths…

While we women are watching TV in the evening, let men put the kettle on, put the kids to sleep and make the necessary preparations for he next day.

Let men learn how to share other people’s problems and to establish proper relations with their own fathers and sons.

We demand from the bosses!

We refuse to work exclusively in low paid, insecure and flexible jobs. Women also have the right to be unionised and to have access to social security.

Are men better in weaving, cutting out, sewing and designing? We want equal pay for equal worth!

We know very well that when parental leaves are transferable and optional, men prefer not to use them. We want non-transferable leaves for fathers.

We want crèches in all work places which hire more than fifty workers irrespective of sex! We want our children to go the crèche in their father’s work place.

We also demand neighbourhood crèches. Bosses hiring less than fifty workers should make financial contributions to the neighbourhood crèches in proportion to the number of their workers.

You have been privileging men for centuries. We want positive discrimination when we apply for jobs, while we work and in professional training courses. We demand quotas in “male jobs”!

The streets are not safe for women. We want safe transportation for 24 hours to and from work.

We demand from the state!

We demand the right to retirement pension at fifty, in return for the domestic labour we have spent on our husbands and companions. Retirement pension for housewives!

Although we run our households for years on end, when we go out to look for work, we are counted as unqualified labour.

We want to be paid unemployment fees once we start looking for a job, until we get one.We are only offered training courses in “female skills”.

We demand quotas for women in technical skill courses.We refuse to be deprived of social security when we do home-based work, work as care workers or cleaning ladies, or when we work on land for practically nothing.

We don’t want to have to count on our fathers or husbands when we are ill; we do not want to live on the street with an empty stomach. The right to individual health security and a decent shelter for all women!

We work both at home and in the work place. We do double shifts. We want early retirement!

When we say “enough is enough” and want to get a divorce, we want unconditional alimony payment: We refuse to be preached on decency, virtue and morals. The state should pay the alimony when the divorced husband fails to do so.

Is it only our responsibility to care for the elderly? We want professional public care for old people if they prefer to go on living in their own homes. We also demand good quality homes for old people.

The European Parliament by a large majority passed a Resolution in favour of substantially increasing European minimum standards for maternity and paternity leave provisions. In what supporters are lauding a great victory for the women and men living in Europe, the Parliament approved an increase of maternity leave provisions from 14 weeks to 20 weeks and the introduction of two weeks leave for new fathers, both fully paid.

‘This is an incredibly important victory for parents, both mothers and fathers, as it will for the first time shift the costs of maternity from individual women to society as a whole’, says Brigitte Triems, President of the European Women’s Lobby. ‘It is also a sign that our representatives in the European Parliament take progress towards equality between women and men and the future of our societies seriously. We welcome the commitment in particular of those MEPs who championed the text, but also of the Parliament as a whole, which today showed that it is ready to take political decisions which may be unpopular in certain quarters but which in effect favour long-term gains in equality between women and men and socio-economic sustainability.’

The revision to the so-called ‘Maternity Leave Directive’ was first tabled in 2008. The duration of leave and the costs of remuneration have been highly controversial, in particular with British business groups, and the vote was expected to be very close. Earlier this year, the European Parliament’s Impact Assessment of the proposed legislation concluded that the investment for European economies was highly sound, with increases in women’s employment rates alone set to more than offset the costs.

‘If backed by European governments, this legislation will make a huge difference to the lives of millions of women across Europe’, explains EWL Secretary General, Myria Vassiliadou. ‘Sufficiently long leave allowances, pay and protection from dismissal upon return will ensure women do not have to sacrifice their careers in order to raise a family.’

Currently in Europe, women’s employment rates drop by more than 12% when they have children. The OECD found in 2006 that in countries where the maternity leave provisions are longest, female employment rates were also highest, with over 80% in Iceland and over 70% in Denmark and Sweden – well above the OECD average of 57%.

At a time of widespread concern about Europe’s ageing population and the costs of pensions, increasing women’s participation in the labour market as well as birth-rates has become paramount to economic sustainability. The member states with high female employment rates are also countries where fertility rates are higher.

‘The Members of the European Parliament have sent a very strong message to our governments that priority must be given to long-term, equal and sustainable investments in Europe’s biggest resource: its people, women, men and children,’ said Ms. Triems. ‘We trust national governments will take note.’

Gender equality associations are also very pleased about provisions for paid paternity leave. According to Ms Vassiliadou, ‘Fathers not only have a right to be with their new-born children, but should also be encouraged to contribute equally to their care. Guaranteed and paid paternity leave is a step in the right direction towards an equal distribution of social rights and responsibilities between women and men.’

According to the legislative Resolution adopted today, fathers are provided with two weeks non-transferable leave at full pay. The first six weeks of maternity leave are also non-transferable, but a couple can request to share the remaining 14 weeks.

For more information, please contact Leanda Barrington-Leach, EWL Communications and Media Officer,, T: (+32) 488 41 94 21, and see

The European Women’s Lobby (EWL) is the largest umbrella organisation of women’s associations in the European Union (EU), working to promote women’s rights and equality between women and men. EWL membership extends to organisations in all 27 EU Member States and 3 of the candidate countries, as well as to 21 European-wide organisations, representing a total of more than 2500 associations.

According to All Women’s Action Society Malaysia (Awam), employers tend to have the perception that women become unproductive once they were pregnant.

“But this is completely unacceptable and it shows that the companies are ignorant about labour laws,” said senior programme officer Abigail De Vries.

She said a number of women had approached Awam over the years with similar issues.

“The problem is not uncommon but more should be done to eradicate discrimination of women at the workplace,” De Vries added.

Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) said it condemned employers who discriminated against women because of their gender.

“Dismissing a female employee because she is pregnant, or treating her so badly that she sees no other option but to resign, is punishing a woman for claiming her reproductive rights,” said WAo’s programme officer Sarah Thwaites, adding the government currently does not monitor the extent of this trend of forcing pregnant women out of their jobs.

“The Women, Family and Community Development Ministry and the Labour Department should encourage women who have been discriminated against to come forward and make complaints to their offices throughout the country,” she said.

Thwaites added that employers needed to know that they may face legal repercussions as everyone had the right to work and raise a family without being bullied and discriminated against.

According to a draft Oct. 1 memo obtained by the Star, Ottawa has determined these careers once considered “morally offensive” should be put on the federal government’s Job Bank, which is also available for use by the provinces.

The surprise memo from Human Resources and Skills Development Canada has set a few tongues wagging among those wondering how these careers suddenly became respectable, and how Conservatives could allow this to happen.

“This is such a contradiction for the holier than thou family values gang to all of a sudden endorse an escort service as a legitimate occupation for unemployed Canadian women,” NDP MP Pat Martin said.

Terri-Jean Bedford, the dominatrix who went to court and got Canada’s prostitution laws thrown out, said these are legitimate occupations and “it’s high time that people stop being so judgmental about another person’s occupation.”

“There are a lot of unsavory occupations that I would never apply for. Soldier being one of them and politician probably being another,” Bedford said.

The job posting change is at odds with the Conservatives’ outrage over the recent federal court decision stating that Canada’s prostitution violated the Constitution. The government immediately appealed the decision, saying “prostitution is a problem that harms individuals and communities.”

“This is appalling activity by our government because what they are really doing is promoting the subjugation of woman for the most part,” Charles McVety, the president of Canadian Christian College, told the Star.

“It is also hypocritical that this would this would be done under a Conservative government,” he said.

The draft policy, which has yet to be implemented, stated that the following occupations will “be acceptable for posting on Job Bank”:

• Exotic dancer, erotic dancer, nude dancer, striptease dancer and table dancer.

• Escort, chat line agent, phone agent for personal services and telephone agent for personal services.

Many of these occupations in a 2003 memo from Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRDC) were described as being “morally offensive by the majority of Canadians.”

It is not the first time that strippers have caused problems for the federal government of the day.

In 2004, the opposition called for then immigration minister Judy Sgro’s resignation over her office’s decision to extend a residence permit to a Romanian stripper, and Ottawa’s controversial program to allow foreign strippers to get special work visas.

“The Conservatives were all over that,” recalled McVety, “that’s why I’m a little incredulous that a Conservative government would do this.”–conservatives-say-escorts-good-prostitution-bad

See also:
* Women are being asked to prostitute themselves after applying for vacancies in job centres, the Government has admitted
* Porn TV presenter job advertised in Jobcentre
* Equality impact assessment for accepting and advertising employer vacancies from within the adult entertainment industry by Jobcentre Plus

The fight against human trafficking in Latin America is ineffective and has led to the emergence of intra-regional markets for the trade, according to experts and activists meeting in the Mexican city Puebla.

450 academics and activists took part in the Second Latin American Conference on Smuggling and Trafficking of Human Beings, under the theme “Migrations, Gender and Human Rights”, Sept. 21-24 in Puebla, 129 kilometres south of Mexico City.

In Mexico some 20,000 people a year fall victim to the modern-day slave trade, according to the Centre for Studies and Research on Social Development and Assistance (CEIDAS), which monitors the issue.

The total number of victims in Latin America amounts to 250,000 a year, yielding a profit of 1.35 billion dollars for the traffickers, according to statistics from the Mexican Ministry of Public Security. But the data vary widely. Whatever the case, the United Nations warns that human trafficking has steadily grown over the past decade.

Organisations like the Coalition Against Trafficking of Women and Girls in Latin America and the Caribbean (CATW-LAC) estimate that over five million girls and women have been trapped by these criminal networks in the region, and another 10 million are in danger of falling into their hands.

The United Nations today defines human trafficking as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring, or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.”

Smuggling of persons, again according to the U.N., is limited to “the procurement of the illegal entry of a person into a state party of which the person is not a national or a permanent resident, in order to obtain, directly or indirectly, a financial or other material benefit.”

Latin America is a source and destination region for human trafficking, a crime that especially affects the Dominican Republic, Brazil and Colombia.

The conference host, David Fernández Dávalos, president of the Ibero-American University of Puebla (UIA-Puebla), said in his inaugural speech that human trafficking is a modern and particularly malignant version of slavery, only under better cover and disguises.

On Aug. 31, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged member states to implement a Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons, because it is “among the worst human rights violations,” constituting “slavery in the modern age,” and preying mostly on “women and children.”

The congress coincides with the International Day Against the Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking of Women and Children on Thursday, instituted in 1999 by the World Conference of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW).

Government authorities and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Mexico concur that criminal mafias in this country have been proved to combine trafficking in persons with drug trafficking, along both the northern and southern land borders (with the United States and with Guatemala, respectively).

Most Latin American countries have established laws against human trafficking, and have ratified the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime, in force since Sept. 29, 2003.

In Mexico, a federal Law to Prevent and Punish Trafficking in Persons has been on the books since 2007, but the government has yet to create a national programme to implement it, although this is stipulated in the law itself.

The Puebla Congress, which follows the first such conference held in Buenos Aires in 2008, is meeting one month after the massacre of 72 undocumented migrants in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas, which exemplified the connection between drug trafficking and trafficking in persons, and drew International attention to the dangers faced by migrants in Mexico.

IOM investigations and research have found that Nicaraguan women are trafficked into Guatemala and Costa Rica, and Honduran women are trafficked into Guatemala and Mexico.

Women from Colombia and Peru have been forced into prostitution in the southern Ecuadorean province of El Oro, according to a two-year investigation by Martha Ruiz, a consultant responsible for updating and redrafting Ecuador’s National Plan against Human Trafficking.

Out of the 32 Mexican states, eight make no reference to human trafficking in their state laws. Mario Fuentes, head of CEIDAS, wrote this week in the newspaper Excélsior that the country is labouring under “severe backwardness and challenges in this field, because it lacks a national programme to deal with the problem, as well as a system of statistics.”

Part of a longer article at

The war has had any number of hidden costs for Iraqis. One that few outside Iraq might notice or even consider a significant problem: More women are finding themselves over 30 and single after seven years of bloody turmoil that made marriage more difficult, killing many young men and blowing apart social networks.

In Iraq’s conservative society, women are expected to be married in their teens or early 20s. Women who cross the 30-year threshold and are single face powerful social stigmas and live under heavy limitations.

Generally, they must continue living with their parents or other family. If they are not wealthy, educated or employed, they are often reduced by relatives to servitude — cleaning, washing, cooking and watching over small children.

Work opportunities are limited. At jobs or in public, unmarried women are sometimes seen as vulnerable, without the protection of a husband. Some almost never leave their houses.

There are no figures available for the number of single females in their 30s in Iraq, but women’s rights activists say it is beyond question that a disproportionately large number of them exists.

Being female, single and over 30 was already common because of Iraq’s decades of conflict, including the bloody Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. But their number is believed to have significantly grown since 2003. Besides the young men killed in violence, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis — many of them fighting-age males — fled the country.

Also, suicide bombings, sectarian slayings, death squads and gunbattles disrupted social networks for marriage. People feared leaving their homes, so young people had little chance to meet potential spouses.

Family visits, traditionally an opportunity for the men to meet future spouses have become rare during the height of the violence.

The Shiite-Sunni violence also meant that cross-sect marriages have become much less frequent.

Economic woes have also left many young men unable to afford the heavy expenses they must traditionally pay for marriage — including buying or renting and furnishing a home.

Jinan Mubarak, the head of a leading non-governmental women’s organization in Baghdad, said the problems unmarried women face get little attention as the government focuses on helping the hundreds of thousands of widows left by wars.

“Single women are constantly harassed at work and at home because of their perceived vulnerability,” she said. “They are exploited by their families too.”

Women’s activists are publicly debating solutions to promote marriage, like having the government offer cash incentives to men prepared to marry older women or take second wives, allowed under Islamic law.

Mubarak cautiously backs one proposal for the government to pay a one-off sum of money to men who marry a woman over the age of 35. But she recognizes such a policy has its dangers for women.

“Women are not merchandise for sale, there must be guarantees of good intentions on the part of the men if we allow this to go ahead,” she said.

To encourage marriage amid economic hard times, authorities and charities often organize mass weddings free of charge for couples unable to afford private parties and offer them wedding presents of cash or domestic appliances.

But another women’s rights activist, Hanaa Adwar, says such gestures won’t solve the deeper problems for unmarried women. “The real solution is in security, the revival of the economy and tackling unemployment,” she said.

Unmarried women “must be given vocational skills to earn a living and get help to start small projects and be integrated in society,” she said.

Part of a longer article at

Work: defending and strengthening the right to work, despite the economic crisis
4th World Forum on Human Rights, Nantes-France, July 1, 2010
Ruchira Gupta (;

Namaste. I bring greetings from the ten thousand and seventy two girls and women who are members of my organization, Apne Aap in India. Many of them are victims and survivors of prostitution. I bring a message from them to the conference as we debate the strengthening of the right to work at a time of economic crisis.
The women of Apne Aap appeal to all human rights activists not to accept their exploitation as work. They appeal to us to reject the normalization of their sexual exploitation by those who say it is a choice. They say their prostitution and sex-trafficking is not a choice but absence of choice. They did not choose to be born poor, low caste or female. Apne Aap members have decided to use the term ‘women in prostitution’ for adults and the term ‘prostituted child’ instead of ‘child prostitutes or child sex-worker’ for girls and boys.

Apne Aap members feel that:
1. The term sex-worker sterilizes the inherently exploitative nature of prostitution and invalidates the women’s traumatic experiences of subjugation, degradation and pain.
2. The term sex-worker naturalizes and makes acceptable in society the exploitation of women or children.
3. The term sex-worker makes it convenient for different states and governments to ignore the structural social, economic and political policies that force women into prostitution.
4. Very often governments, policy makers and buyers of prostituted sex argue that women chose prostitution as a work option over working in sweatshops, domestic servitude or other forms of hard or cheap labour. They forget, or chose to make invisible, that for women, other options have been limited in terms of highly paid employment (especially when higher education is lacking or husbands/fathers decide or have control over a woman’s time), and prostitution and pornography remain among the more highly paid occupations available to women. They refuse to look at or re-examine the fact that economic and social policies make other lucrative employment unavailable to women and that gender discrimination and occupational segregation funnel women into particular occupations.
5. The term sex-worker categorizes prostitution as a kind of work. They say that Prostitution cannot be categorized as work (even exploitative work in sweat shops or domestic servitude) as it disconnects the self from the activity. It always involves penetration of the body or body invasion. To cope with the experience, many Apne Aap members detach themselves emotionally from their bodies- effectively segmenting themselves, or entering into out of body experiences. So besides risking disease or death they suffer from the deep psychological trauma of alienation from their own bodies.
6. While labour movements can and do guarantee certain minimum conditions and standards for workers, providing for energy and time needed for the worker to be a fulfilled human being, prostitution inherently cannot do so. I will mention four points here:

    a. All labour movements strive for minimum wages. In prostitution there is no guarantee of minimum wages, as the price of a woman comes down with age and time of night, and sometimes location. Moreover, in brothel-based sex there is no such thing as minimum wages. For the first five years, the brothel owner owns the woman or child and keeps her like a bonded slave. For the next five years, she may give half of what she earns, later she is allowed to keep all that she earns but her earning capacity comes down.
    b. All labour movements aspire to certain minimum working conditions. In prostitution, all women face violence that cannot be legislated away as they are ultimately alone with the buyer of prostituted sex. In an upscale legal brothel in Australia, for example, rooms are equipped with panic buttons, but a bouncer reports that the women’s calls for help can never be answered quickly enough to prevent violence by johns, which occurs regularly. In both brothel-based and non-brothel based prostitution, women are forced to speed up the process of earning more money by servicing an increasing number of buyers, sometimes up to 20. They are also forced to provide all kinds of services and high risk activities like sex without a condom as most often they are not in any negotiating position. They are kept locked up in brothels, have no access to medical care or education and often are sold when they are children. Their children play on the floor while they service their buyers. They live in small rooms with barred windows end up with insomnia, repeated abortions, jaundice TB, cigarette burns, HIV and AIDS and trauma. And while some of these conditions can be regulated in brothel-based sex, they cannot be regulated in street-based sex at all. Mortality rates in prostitution are high due to sexual violence, sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV and AIDS and repeated abortions and suicide attempts related to psycho-social trauma. The average age of death of a woman in prostitution in India is now 35 years.
    In Kolkata, I talked with a group of women who had asked for the unionization of prostitution to guarantee workers rights. All the members I interviewed admitted to facing violence when they are alone with the client. “The bed was covered with blood, ‘he stubbed cigarette butts out on my breasts,” “they paid for it, we cannot stop it.” A doctor working for this group told me that he left after having to stitch up the vagina of a fifteen-year-old Nepali girl – for the third time.
    c. All labour movements work to guarantee retirement benefits such as old age pension. Prostitution cannot guarantee old age benefits as there is no defined employer in street based sex and in brothel based sex, the women or child is often sold again and again from one brothel owner to another. The older a women in prostitution gets, the less she is able to earn an income and very often ends upon the streets, with no income, a disease ridden body and a few children. In Germany and in an area near Las Vegas in the US where prostitution has been legalized, government agencies tried to make applicants for unemployment benefits show that they had attempted to find “work” in the so-called “hospitality industry” of prostitution in order to become eligible for such benefits.
    d. Finally and most importantly for labour movements is the question of dignity of the worker. Labour movements have insured that miners do not have to crawl into mines anymore but walk upright. However, in prostitution the woman or child is constantly humiliated physically, emotionally and psychologically. Her price is constantly negotiated as the night wears on or as she grows older. She is forced to sexualize her body for a time –period and then desexualize it again at another time.
    e. The term ‘sex-worker’ gives a false impression of agency and choice exercised by women and children in prostitution. Apne Aap members’ life-experiences reveal that the choice and agency in prostitution, talked about in some policy circles, is a choice allowed by the exploiter in an exploitative situation as in the days of slavery. We can examine the exercise of choice in the life-cycle of a woman in prostitution over a period of 20 years from when she is 15 to when she is 35. This is a hopeful projection, as most Apne Aap members say that the normal time-span that the body of a woman can cope with prostitution is no more than ten years.

• The first five years (15-20): In this period, girls kidnapped, stolen. tricked, sold and lured are locked up in small rooms with barred windows only brought out by the brothel madam to serve up to 15-20 buyers of prostituted sex every night. They are served one meal a day, given some clothes and toiletries, but they are not given any of the money that the buyer pays for them. They are in slave-like conditions and have no choice. In every conversation with them, they talk about wanting to go home.
• The second five years (20-25): There is a period of socialization within the brothels and the women are taught to become dependent on drugs and alcohol. Brothel madams also make sure that they have one or two children so that the women cannot think about returning home anymore. In this period, the women are allowed by the brothel madam to keep half of what they earn. Memories of home become hazy due to repeated violence and psychosocial trauma and they begin to suffer from the Stockholm syndrome, where the small mercies meted out by the kidnapper seem of great moment. With children, suffering from depression and diseases, they do not see a way out. At this time, when asked the women say they want to stay in the brothels and no go back home.
• The third five years (25-30): After ten years of physical abuse, malnutrition and drug and alcohol dependency, the earning capacity of the women comes down. Buyers of prostituted sex look for younger girls. They are allowed to keep all of their earnings but earnings go down and the needs of their children go up. At this time, they want to leave prostitution, but don’t have the life-skills or the physical health to do so. They have no choice.
• The fourth five years (30-35): In this period, the women have no buyers of prostituted sex, no income; have two or three children and disease ridden bodies. They are thrown out of the brothels and end up on the sidewalk. They cannot afford even one meal or even access to a toilet. They have no options and are forced to die on the streets. In a period of 20 years, women talk about wanting to exercise a choice to stay in prostitution for about five years. And even this, exercise of choice or agency is in a situation, where the women feel they have no other options and try to make the best of what there is.

Therefore, Apne Aap members don’t use the term sex-worker. They are in the middle of a heroic struggle with our government and some international foundations to change the Indian anti-trafficking law to punish those who exploit them and to remove all clauses in the law which punish victims on charges of solicitation.

In running this campaign, Apne Aap Women Worldwide has come up against some entrenched interests. Ironically, this opposition has included many HIV/AIDS management projects funded by International Foundations that work in red-light areas and hire pimps and brothel managers as “peer educators” to gain easy access to the brothels for the purpose of condom distribution. They turn a blind eye to the little girls and adult women kept in a system of bondage and control, who cannot say no to unwanted sex let alone unprotected sex. They are more interested in protecting male buyers of prostituted sex from disease rather than protecting women and girls from the buyers. These are the same solutions that colonialist powers used to control syphyllis in the 18th and 19th centuries.

There new challenges thrown up by the economic crisis at a time of rising neo-liberalism is that we are being asked to accept once again the legitimacy of exploitation as work. We are told that if choose to be exploited then we are not exploited. We are never told that a choice must at least have two options. We are then asked to notice and feel empowered by finding “agency” within exploitation. We are told that prostitution is inevitable and we must accept it and negotiate to mitigate its circumstances.

When a problem is very big and profits a powerful group, there is a time-honored temptation to sweep it under the rug by assuming it inevitable. This was true of slavery until the abolitionist movement of the 19th Century, and of colonialism until the contagion of independence movements in the 20th Century.

Now these same forces are at work in attitudes toward the global and national realities of sex slavery. The biggest normalizer of profiteering from the rental, sale and invasion of human bodies is the idea that it is too big to fight, that it has always existed, and that it can be swept under the rug by legalizing and just accepting it. Those who profit — in this case, the global network of sex traffickers, sex tourism operators and brothel owners – are the major force behind the argument to legalize and increase profits that already rival those from the global arms and drug trade. As with the slavery and colonialism of the past, this argument has force with those in power who are so distant from the reality that they don’t know the consequences as well as those who profit from it themselves, whether economically, politically, or as men addicted to dominance.

What will diminish and end this injustice? Exposing its reality: the lack of alternatives for those who are prostituted; the addiction and inability to empathize among those who create the demand and the uniformly disastrous results where ever the selling or renting of human beings for sexual purposes has been legalized and normalized.

Thank you

Domestic workers fighting for rights and recognition through binding international standards won a crucial first round victory at the this year’s International Labour Conference at the ILO in Geneva. On June 4, 61 governments voted in favour of a Convention supplemented by a Recommendation, against 14 voting for a Recommendation only.

This first victory for the hundreds of millions of domestic workers around the world was followed by ten days of tough negotiations around proposed amendments, particularly from the Employers’ Group seeking to considerably weaken the scope and content of future standards. While claiming to recognize the important economic contribution of domestic workers, the employers characteristically argued that high standards would reduce employment opportunities for this group of workers – a contention challenged by government representatives from countries including Brazil, Uruguay, and South Africa, where domestic workers are covered under national legislation and collective agreements exist.

The Workers’ Group and the African, Australian, Latin American and US governments in particular managed not only to maintain the important clauses in the draft conclusions but to introduce several amendments further strengthening protection in key areas, including minimum working age/child labour and the liabilities and responsibilities of private employment agencies.

Despite the substantial progress made at this first discussion, a number of challenges remain for the second and final discussion in 2011. The principle of equal treatment with respect to social protection, working time, health and safety and labour inspection between domestic workers and workers in other sectors is far from established – including in some of the richest countries in the world including the members of the European Union

To prepare for next year’s discussion, the International Domestic Workers’ Network (IDWN) will have to mobilize strong support from relevant national and regional authorities around these issues. It will also be necessary to intensify the documentation of and awareness raising around domestic workers’ working and living conditions and the ways and means to improve these.

Workers’ Group spokesperson Halimah Yacob in her introductory remarks told the ILO tripartite Committee on Domestic Workers that their historic task was to take “decent work for all” from a slogan to a reality for all domestic workers. The IDWN and its members will return to next year’s negotiations better prepared than ever to fight for equal rights for all.

The full report and the conclusions from the ILO tripartite Committee on Domestic Workers are available here

For more information and regular updates from domestic workers’ organizations around the world see the Respect and Rights for Domestic Workers website


See also on ILO website: Decent Work for Domestic Workers in Asia-Pacific–en/WCMS_114205/index.htm

A group of women in the fishing village of Thantirayankuppam in India are members of a self-help group, a cooperative that gathers regularly to arrange loans for members in distress and provide counselling to one another.

The biggest problem the group faces is the high number of female suicides. A woman had been driven to suicide by her husband. He drank and gambled; he beat her. Such behavior was the cause of virtually all the recent suicide attempts in the village.

It’s a familiar story around here, and it’s one of the reasons almost all the self-help groups in this area are aimed solely at women. Talk to development workers involved in the groups, and they’ll list all the reasons men are difficult to work with: they drink, they gamble, they fight, they bring politics into the groups, and they spend loans intended for the family on alcohol or entertainment.

In the 1990s, it became popular to talk about “engendering development.” The stated goal was to include more women in the development process, to right historical gender inequalities and make sure that aid money flowed equally to both sexes.

These are laudable goals. But what often goes unspoken in the practice of engendered development is that aid agencies want to work with women not just because they have traditionally been excluded, but also because men are harder to work with.

Indeed, in many ways, and in striking contrast to women, men often represent something of an impediment to development. Jerald Moris, has been working in rural development for more than 20 years: “Working with women’s groups is more efficient.” He added that a rupee spent on women goes further than on men.

Such talk isn’t politically correct, of course. The literature on engendered development is full of pieties about the need to include both men and women, and about the vital partnering role that men play in fostering economic and social progress.

Men generally earn more than women, but they tend to spend much of their income outside the household. Women, aid workers say, are far more likely to spend their meager incomes or loans received through self-help groups on the family.

Men are more likely to discriminate against female children, pulling them out of school early and marrying them off at a young age.

In many village households, fathers will insist that they and male children are fed first. If there is, for example, a limited quantity of meat, it might be reserved for male members of the family.

These are just some of the reasons that aid groups find it more productive to work with women than men. Their preferences are backed up by empirical studies. The economist Amartya Sen, for instance, has often drawn attention to the fact that women’s education and employment levels are among the best determinants of child mortality, fertility and other development indicators.

In other words, focusing resources on women is, to use Mr. Moris’s phrase, a “more efficient” way of spurring general development.

They cited the usual list of difficulties in working with men — alcoholism, irregular attendance at meetings, poor loan repayment rates, violence.

Men, Mr. Moris said, were more likely to discuss and argue over politics, creating friction within groups and sometimes leading to their dissolution.

Mr. Moris explains why, despite the difficulties, he had been interested in men’s groups. He said that he had been struck by a sense of exclusion and discrimination felt by many men he came across in the villages. They complained that they were being left out of the development process. Some worried they were losing their status at home because it was easier for their wives to get loans.

It is perhaps hard to feel sorry for men: they drink, beat their wives, neglect their families.

But if the goal of development is to overcome obstacles to progress, then, precisely because they are often difficult and obstructionist, it would seem that men have to be part of the process.

The number of women leaving the archipelago, legally or illegally, has been steadily climbing over the past decade, according to the National Authority for the Placement and Protection of Indonesian Overseas Workers. []

An estimated six million Indonesian woman – some 90 percent of all Indonesian migrant labourers – are now working overseas, according to the authority.

Most go to the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, Jordon and Qatar, with the rest are in Asia Pacific, including Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan.

Many Indonesian villages are left with a shortage of women. Men, such as Edin in Cimanggu village, in a rural farming community on Java Island, sometimes assume the role of a single parent for years at a time.

“It’s very difficult. I have to be very patient to raise them. The grandparents cannot take care of them, so it’s only me,” said Edin, who has two teenagers.

His wife worked in Saudi Arabia for almost seven years, enabling the couple to pay school fees and buy a motorcycle. But they still cannot afford their own land or a house, he said.

His wife returns in six months from what he hopes will be her last trip. “It is not worth it, I don’t want her to go again,” he said.

According to the World Bank, the registered remittances Indonesian migrant workers send home account for more than US$6 billion annually, comprising the second-highest source of income after oil and gas.

But this contribution comes at a significant cost to women and their families.

“Most of the women are in debt because of placement fees and travel costs they have to pay the [employment] agents. It sometimes takes them the first 16 months to pay the agents back,” said Yoko Doi, a specialist in migrant labour at the World Bank in Jakarta. “They also lack financial planning.”

For many, the desperately sought-after prosperity for which they sacrificed so much remains elusive.

Nine-year-old Zikiri’s mother has been working for more than two years in Saudi Arabia and left when his sister was still a baby. She has only sent money home once.

“His father was supposed to take care of him, but he could not do it. The kids were dirty and did not get enough food, so we brought them here,” said Ai Syamsiyah, Zikiri’s aunt.

Some migrant workers build big houses, but cannot afford the maintenance and are forced to go back to work abroad. But most of the money is spent on daily costs for schooling, food and transportation.

Wages abroad are low and the workload sometimes involves looking after entire families alone without holidays.

Women make the most in Hong Kong, earning almost $500 per month, while in Malaysia, they make less then $150, according to Migrant Care, an Indonesian NGO. []

But back home they make a fraction of that amount, and unemployment and poverty are rife.

The stories about the appalling conditions experienced by migrant workers are painful. Some women sleep in cupboards, or have no private space at all. Food is poor and insufficient. They often work extremely long hours and are the first to get up and the last to go to bed. An estimated 20 percent come back abused, raped, or without being paid, according to Migrant Care.

But for the women of Cimanggu, such horror stories do not deter women from leaving home.

“I was worried sick. If I was rich, I would not have let her go, but I could not even send her to school. She sacrificed herself for a better economic situation,” said Eneh, whose 18-year-old daughter went to Saudi Arabia. After two years of hard work there, her daughter returned with only $120.


Investing in women smallholder farmers is the key to halving hunger and results in twice as much growth as investment in any other sector, a new ActionAid report reveals.

Less than one per cent of the agriculture budget is targeted at women in the three countries researched by ActionAid in its new report Fertile Ground – Malawi, Kenya and Uganda – despite women’s central contribution to the growing of food.

“One billion people going hungry must be a wake-up call that there’s something very wrong with our farming,” said Tennyson Williams, Acting Regional Director for West and Central Africa. “Despite recent commitments, donor aid to agriculture is still too little, uncoordinated and arrives too late. It has also been poorly targeted and remains hugely inconsistent with the realities of women’s role in food production.”

At the moment, virtually nothing is being spent on research into crops grown by women, training, credit, early childhood education and access to land, despite food price hikes and shortages likely to worsen as climate change intensifies.

Fertile Ground shows that 2.9 million Ugandans could be lifted out of poverty by 2015 if the country reached a six per cent agricultural growth rate annually.

In Kenya, 1.5 million lives could be improved, if current sums on agriculture rose from 5 to 10 per cent.

In stark contrast, Malawi is one of Africa’s highest spenders on agriculture and as a result food security is better than at any time in recent history. In 2004, 1.5 million people needed food aid while in 2009, this number had dropped to 150,000 people.

ActionAid believes that by scaling up support to smallholders to at least $40 billion per year globally, world leaders can deliver a 50 percent reduction hunger and poverty by 2015 – the most fundamental of the UN Millennium Goals.

Download: Fertile Ground Report

After improving lives of many women in Gujarat and other parts of the country, the National Insurance VimoSEWA Co-operative of Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) has taken a big leap — all the way to Namibia.

VimoSEWA is assisting the Namibian government’s financial services authority, Namfisa and Fides Bank, a micro finance institution in the country. A team from SEWA, including Mirai Chatterjee, the director of SEWA Social Security, has visited Namibia and SEWA will be submitting the action plan soon.

“The need for micro-finance and micro-insurance is vital in upgrading the living standards of women. The major problems in Namibia that we realised are high mortality rate due to HIV/AIDS, alcoholism and the fact that the population is spread in a vast area making the distribution extremely difficult,” said Chatterjee.

Talking about VimoSEWA, the chief operating officer (COO) of the co-operative said, “The first insurance co-operative owned and run by women workers in the informal economy, VimoSEWA has combination insurance products and services – life, health and assets. The premium paid by the women range between Rs 400 to Rs 1,000 annually. VimoSEWA has 10,000 shareholders from five states – Gujarat, Bihar, Rajasthan, Delhi and Madhya Prodesh.”

Amar Oza, chief executive officer of vimoSEWA, while addressing the media on Thursday said, “The penetration of an important and simple thing like life insurance is only about 25 per cent. The penetration of health insurance is less than five percent. In the next phase of VimoSEWA, we are looking at business development, stronger after-sales service and deeper penetration.”

Caritas Internationalis is calling on governments and the international community to protect migrants who work in people’s homes as maids, nannies and carers from exploitation. These workers are mostly women.

Domestic workers are frequently trafficked and exploited. They rarely benefit from any form of legal protection. Abuse can be difficult to detect because the workplace is in private homes.

Caritas asks that domestic workers have the same legal protection in the workplace as others workers do.

‘Apart from the risk of abuse, domestic workers may have no social security protection, can be overworked and underpaid. Many fear their employers’ reprisals if they complain to the authorities and thus continue to live as modern day slaves,’ says Martina Liebsch, Director of Policy for Caritas Internationalis.

The International Labour Organziation is the UN body responsible for international employment standards.The ILO will consider a draft convention to protect the rights of domestic workers in June 2010. Caritas is asking for specific provisions for migrant domestic workers that includes that their work or residence permit is not tied to one employer.

Caritas is calling for the creation of a complaints mechanism and a compensation scheme for migrant domestic workers that is independent of their legal status.

Domestic work should be regulated through the creation of employment agencies which act as intermediaries between employers and migrant workers. Agencies should ensure compliance with labour standards and the quality of the work performed.

Caritas recognises an increasing demand for domestic workers and home care providers, yet legal migratory channels don’t existent in many countries. Caritas calls on governments to create channels for legal labour migration for people wishing to leave their own countries.

European commissioner for fundamental rights refuses to rule out legislation to promote wage equality

The pay gap between men and women in Europe has barely changed for the better in 15 years, the European commission said today, while pledging to narrow the gap significantly within five years.

The situation in Britain was worse than average, with women in the UK being paid 79% of male rates, while across the 27 countries of the EU the figure was 82%, according to a survey from Eurobarometer timed to coincide with International Women’s Day on Monday.

Viviane Reding, a European commissioner for fundamental rights including gender equality, pledged to step up a campaign for equal pay and to combat gender violence, saying she did not rule out European legislation to promote wage equality.

Later this year, said José Manuel Barroso, the commission president, Brussels would deliver a “women’s charter”, a five-year plan aimed at redressing the inequalities in pay which ranged from under 5% in Italy to 30% per cent in Estonia.

The commission said it “plans to raise awareness among employers, encourage initiatives to promote gender equality, and support the development of tools to measure the gender pay gap. On the other hand, new legal measures are not excluded.”

Reding said: “I am deeply concerned that the gender pay gap has barely fallen over the last 15 years and in some countries it is even increasing.”

The opinion survey found that 62% of Europeans believed inequality between the sexes was widespread, with between 40% and 44% calling for better care facilities for children and the elderly, flexible working, and straightforward pay rises for women in order to redress the imbalance.

“Tackling the gender pay gap will be one of the main priorities,” said the commission today, vowing “to use all available instruments, both legislative and non-legislative, to reduce the gender pay gap”.

Any European law proposals seeking to compel a level playing field would need to win the backing of all 27 governments as well as being endorsed by the European parliament.

Women in the Asia-Pacific region are lagging behind most of the world with little economic power, political voice and legal rights, while their reduced status is depressing economic growth prospects in developing nations.

Those are the conclusions of the U.N.’s Asia-Pacific Human Development Report, which was published on Monday to mark International Women’s Day.

The report ranked the region near the worst in the world — often lower than sub-Saharan Africa — on issues related to women’s employment, parliamentary participation and property ownership.

“The key message (of the report) is that to meet any development goals that a society sets, you need the full participation and involvement of women,” Helen Clark, head of the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP) told AlertNet.

“The fact is that when women do have equal rights, it is very good for the society they live in and it is very good for the economy they live in, so there are many levels on which we should be promoting equal rights for women.”

Asia-Pacific is currently losing an estimated $89 billion every year due to the lack of women in the workforce, according to the report titled: “Power, rights and voice.”

Clark said raising the rates of women in the workforce to levels in developed countries would certainly raise the annual gross domestic product (GDP) of many of the countries in the region.

In countries like India, Indonesia and Malaysia, conservative estimates show that GDP would increase by two to four percent if women’s employment rates were raised to 70 percent — comparable to the United States, the report said.

While many women in the Asia-Pacific region have benefitted from improved education, health and prosperity, they continue to face barriers to the same opportunities available to men.

Almost half the adult women in South Asia are illiterate, more than any other region in the world, and women in this region can expect to live five years less than the world average of 71 years, the report said.

Asia-Pacific women also hold only a handful of legislative seats — fewer than anywhere else in the world except the Arab region — with the Pacific sub-region accounting for four of the world’s six countries with no women parliamentarians.

Those who do manage to gain a voice at local or national level face trouble.

“Women politicians, particularly those with extra vulnerabilities of poverty or association with marginalised groups, have been killed, raped or faced physical threats for challenging the status quo,” the report said.

It cited an example of a village council in India where male members spread stories that female members were sexually promiscuous, harassed them with obscene phone calls and made sexual innuendoes during meetings.

The report added that legal rights of women were also lacking with laws related to property and assets biased in favour of men.

While agricultural jobs account for more than 40 percent of women’s jobs in East Asia, and 65 percent in South Asia, only 7 percent of farms in these regions are controlled by women, compared to 20 percent in most other regions of the world.

It said that the lack of property and asset ownership left women in vulnerable to poverty, with no control over household finances.

Few countries have also adopted laws prohibiting violence against women and nearly half of the countries in South Asia and more than 60 percent of those in Pacific have no laws against domestic violence.

UNDP’s Clark called on policymakers to make it a priority to correct gender imbalances.

“Human development cannot be achieved if 50 percent of the population is excluded,” she said.

Girls in Swat District, northwestern Pakistan, have gone back to school, and most women who had been prevented from working have returned to work, but people are still fearful.

According to the government’s National Commission on the Status of Women, there were 1,000-1,200 women factory workers in Mingora before the Taliban takeover in 2009. It is unknown how many have returned to work.

Tens of thousands of civilians were displaced from Swat in the spring and summer of 2009 due to intense fighting between government forces and Taliban militants. Most returned after the army regained control in July. (See Swat timeline)

A deep sense of trauma exists in many places. Since November 2009, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has set up 10 welfare centres, known as “Friend’s House” to offer support and counselling to those affected by conflict.

There are also reports from Swat that state action against militants is continuing, adding to the tension.

“We have credible reports of arbitrary detentions, including female relatives of militants,” Asma Jahangir, chairperson of the autonomous Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, told IRIN.

Meanwhile, Sardar Hussain Babak, education minister for the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), has told the media in Peshawar that since December 2009 there has been a 1 percent increase in female enrolment. This is a significant development in a part of the country where, according to official figures, the literacy rate for women stands at below 23 percent.

School infrastructure, however, is “in ruins”, according to Ibrash Pasha, an activist with the NGO Khwendo Kor, which works for the education of girls.

Part of a longer article at

Palestinian women have been forced to find work to prevent family destitution at the same time as protecting masculine self esteem to preserve family harmony. These are the findings of a report by CARE International, The World Bank and the Women’s Studies Institute (WSI) at Birzeit University.

Economic collapse (the West Bank and Gaza has moved from being a middle income economy to one that is now massively aid dependent in the span of a decade) has systematically undermined men’s traditional role as the primary provider and protector of the family. Women, ill-equipped by training, experience, or expectation, are having to become breadwinners, in addition to their traditional roles, by searching for jobs in the formal sector (public sector and services), delaying their exit from the public sector (traditionally women would have left their jobs after marriage), producing food and other goods, selling or bartering food coupons, borrowing from neighbours, and volunteering with charitable organisations.

However women also have to negotiate the effect their new role of provider has on men. With men of all ages experiencing the daily fear and humiliation that stem from violence, conflict and unemployment, they retreat, depressed and emasculated. Women, eager to preserve tranquillity at home, have to tread carefully in a terrain of disrupted gender roles.

A woman in Jenin City said: “I have to think carefully about how I manage myself and what I say. For example, I can’t just come home and give him the money I earn. This would make him angry and depressed. He would feel like a failure for not being able to earn it himself. Instead, I leave it on the TV. I don’t want him to feel he is not the man of the house.”

Martha Myers, Head of CARE International in the West Bank and Gaza said: “Palestinian women are finding ways to cope with the poverty and conflict they find their families facing but their strategies represent a double blow. First, they are assuming extra burdens, work, and responsibilities. Second, they have to manage this in the context of traditional roles and perceptions and the men in their lives who are increasingly isolated and frustrated by their inability to provide and care. The hardships of Palestinian women will only be reversed with the lifting of Israel’s economic restrictions”.

The report states that only sustained lifting of economic restrictions by Israel will reverse negative trends, but recommends that the Palestinian Authority can take specific action in the immediate term by:
* Enabling employment for women that is perceived as “dignified”, especially through improvement of public transport regulation and enforcement of labour law.
* Supporting and expanding opportunities for youth employment.
* Facilitating social cohesion, especially in Area C and others isolated by movement and access restrictions.
* Collecting better data on gender-disaggregated economic participation.

Checkpoints and Barriers: Searching for Livelihoods in the West Bank and Gaza—Gender Dimensions of Economic Collapse” can be downloaded from

Women’s groups analysing the impact of the gender budgeting exercise initiated by the UPA government more than five years back feel that while the pioneering initiative has done its bit in sensitising people to women’s needs, much more needs to be done in terms of increasing allocation and devising better schemes.

The National Common Minimum programme of the UPA made a committment towards gender budgeting which found reflection in former finance minister P Chidambaram’s speech in this government’s first budget in 2004-05. “Women’s groups have met me and urged me to consider gender budgeting. This means that the budget data should be presented in a manner that the gender sensitivities of the budgetary allocations are clearly highlighted,” he said.

The promise was fulfilled in the next year’s budget when the government introduced along with the Budget documents a separate statement highlighting the gender sensitivities of the budgetary allocations under 10 demands for grants. The exercise has been repeated in subsequent budgets.

Appreciating the government’s efforts, Kanta Singh from Women Power Connect, a coalition of women’s groups, academic institutions and women leaders which holds dialogues with policymakers on women’s issues, pointed out that the gender budgeting exercise had indeed sensitised the government to women’s needs. “It has underlined the fact that women have separate needs than men,” she said.

However, the government is still a long way from meeting the target of allocating 30% of resources to measures targetting women as promised in the Ninth five year Plan (it is estimated at a little over 5%). To top that, allocation for women specific programmes have almost remained static as a portion of the total government expenditure (at 5.5%) over the last two years.

“The concept is too new to have made much of an impact,” Ms Singh said, adding that a lot more needs to done.

Women groups now want the government to take gender budgeting to its next level now. “Since food security impacts on women disproportionately and National Family Health Survey data shows that anemia levels among women are going up, it is extremely important that the National Food Securities Act with adequate allocations and gender responsive provisions to see the light of the day. This would have a far reaching impact on ‘aam aurat,” says Yamini Mishra, director, Centre for Budget Analysis.

Elisabeth Badinter, a leading French feminist, has warned the green movement is threatening decades of improvements in gender equality by forcing women to give up their jobs and become earth mothers.

Mrs Badinter claims a “holy reactionary alliance” of green politicians, breast-feeding militants, “back to nature” feminists and child psychologists is turning Frenchwomen into slaves to green “fads” like re-usable nappies and organic food.

In her new book, Conflit, la Femme et la Mere (Conflict, the Woman and the Mother), Mrs Badinter contends that this politically correct cabal is burdening mothers with intolerable guilt unless they stay at home and breast-feed for as long as possible.

Their perfect French mother, she writes, “breastfeeds for six months and doesn’t put her baby in a crèche or not too early, because baby needs to be with mum and not in a nest of germs; she is wary of all things artificial and is ecologically-minded. The jar of baby food has become a sign of selfishness; we’re back to the purée mashed by mum.”

Women in childbirth are even made to feel that epidurals are wrong, she goes on, adding: “We don’t need to bow down to nature.”

Those who choose to stay at work or to not have children are ostracised.

“It’s as if we were all female chimpanzees,” says Mrs Badinter, 65, who is widely admired in France for her outspoken views.

The rot started in the 1990s, she claims, when the French Right introduced payments for mothers wishing to stay at home, and the trend has accelerated with environmental pressures.

Her attack on muesli-eating ecologists sparked a furious response from Cécile Duflot, head of France’s Green party.

“She has completely missed the point. The real issue is to find out why today there is still inequality between men and women on pay and domestic chores, not to consider that today having a child is a problem,” she said.

“She blasts washable nappies as an extra burden for mothers without thinking for a second that a man could put them in the washing machine.

“What she completely forgets is the notion of pleasure. One can take pleasure in raising one’s baby – that goes for men too.” As for the breast-feeding brigade, Miss Duflot pointed out that only half of French women breastfeed, compared to 99 per cent in Norway.

Edwige Antier, a paediatrician and MP for President Nicolas Sarkozy’s centre-Right UMP party also slammed Mrs Badinter, calling her an “archeo-feminist” who is “in denial of motherhood”.

She had, she added, overlooked two key advancements in recent decades: the advent of the contraceptive pill and the child psychologist’s notion that babies are real people whose upbringing can bring fulfilment.

Mrs Badinter’s views are particularly controversial in France, where the rate of women who return to full-time employment after one child is the highest of all industrialised countries. It also has the highest birth rate in Europe.

She argues that France will go the way of Germany, Italy and other low birth rate countries if women feel too pressured into staying at home.

The feminist conceded that most French women managed to balance motherhood and work. But the trend for mothers to stay at home “excuses men in advance for continuing to do nothing in the house”, she says. According to a study published in November, French women do 80 per cent of household chores.

“If we don’t watch out, we can say goodbye to women’s freedom of choice and to the struggle for sexual equality,” she told Le Journal du Dimanche.