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    When ‘Tantric’ Is Code for Rape

    A ‘tantric healer’ in northern India who forced himself on a teen girl has been castrated by his victim—and it appears he’s part of a subculture of sexual predators purporting to heal.

    It’s hard to believe that police would heap praise on a young woman accused of severing a man’s penis with a knife. It’s even harder to believe that such a thing would happen in India, a country with a deeply ingrained tradition of misogyny.

    Some necessary, sympathy-eliciting context: The unnamed girl, a 17-year-old from the northern state of Bihar, was defending herself against the unwanted sexual advances of Mahendra Mehta, a local “tantric healer” who diagnosed the teenager, recently stricken by a mystery ailment, as having been possessed by evil spirits. Besides dispensing crackpot cures and forcing himself on his patients, Mehta is the knife-wielding girl’s uncle. And he had, she claims, raped her before.

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    Culture War

    Oops: Ukrainian Star Takes Kremlin Award

    Street protests and clashes with police mark a Ukrainian singer’s performance after she accepts Russian culture award.

    In vain, Odessa, Ukraine’s “Pearl on the Black Sea,” tried to stay calm and celebrate the summer, but the stench of war reached the city’s graceful streets trimmed with old chestnut trees. Hate for everything pro-Russian traveled all the way from the frontline in eastern parts of Ukraine to the city’s center, sparking rallies and arguments amongst Odessits, as the locals are known. This time, the reason for the street fighting was a beautiful woman, a dark-haired diva and Eurovision competitor, Karolina Kuiek, known as Ani Lorak.

    Ukrainian nationalists have declared that not a single “Russian” pop star would ever perform again on Odessa’s soil, especially now, after a caravan of coffins with Ukrainian soldiers “killed in [a] war with Russia” arrived from the eastern regions of Luhansk and Donetsk, said Ukrainian nationalists.

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    Keeping Tradition

    The Despicable Persistence of the Dowry

    Washing machines, cars, money and jewelry: These are the costs to women’s families to marry them to 'suitable' men.

    NEW DELHI — This April, Guruswamy, a 52-year-old platform cleaner with the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, had finally found a caste-appropriate match for his 16-year-old daughter Pankaja. But the week before the wedding, he was asked to send a colour television, washing machine and new motorcycle to the groom’s family in South India. After grueling 20-hour shifts cleaning cars and working on the Metro’s platforms through the summer, he has managed to make only enough for a washing machine.

    “It will be a while before I have enough to send everything by train,” he said. “I pray every day that they shouldn’t find someone else for their son to marry. No one else from the village in Chennai will marry her if this family rejects her.”

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    Death Threats for Iraq’s Women & Gays

    Religious groups are threatening to kill the members one of the few Iraqi organizations dedicated to helping women and gays.

    BAGHDAD — A little girl toddles around shopping bags brimming with relief supplies that are heading for Iraqi refugees and into the arms of Dalal Jumaa, who heads this office of the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq. Jumaa hugs the little girl and lets her go, then turns to me. “Today I am very scared,” she says in a low voice. “This morning they called and said if you do not move from this house we will kill you.”

    It was the police who phoned the organization Sunday morning, Jumaa said. They told her they had heard she harbored gay men and runaway girls. But the threat, which the police were relaying, came from Asaib Ahl al Haq, a powerful and notoriously brutal Shia militia in Baghdad. “I cannot stop Asaib Ahl al Haq,” the policeman told her, “they received this information and will kill you if you don’t leave.”

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    Personal is Political

    Wife-Beating Is Rampant In Turkey

    Violence against women continues to plague Turkey, and a pioneering new female political party blames Erdogan's machismo.

    Residents of an upscale Istanbul neighborhood flocked to their windows this month to watch a neighbor brutally beat his wife. One onlooker—a European woman—recounted the woman’s screams and her neighbors’ apathy in a post to an Istanbul Facebook group.

    “I asked one of the neighbors to call the police but she refused and continued watching, like it was a soap opera,” the woman wrote. “It seems violence is a normal thing here, and nobody cares!!” 

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    Japan’s Hypocritical Vagiphobia

    Child porn was legal until a month ago in Japan, and you can still find vending machines selling soiled underwear. But a woman who wanted to make a vagina-shaped kayak is behind bars.

    Who knew a country notorious for selling used underwear in vending machines could be so prudish?

    Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi was arrested this week for distributing “obscene” design files to make 3-D-printed models of her vagina. Igarashi, who goes by the nom de art Rokudenashiko (“Good-For-Nothing-Girl”), was thrown behind bars after Japanese authorities intercepted emails of 3-D printed data of her genitalia, sent in an effort to crowdfund her most ambitious project to date: an oceangoing, vagina-shaped kayak, nicknamed the “pussy boat.” A Change.org petition calling for her release collected more than 15,000 signatures in one day.

  • Republican vice presidential candidate Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (2nd L) holds her son Trig as she stands with her daughters Willow (L), Piper (R) and her husband Todd after her speech to the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota, September 3, 2008. (Mike Segar/Reuters)


    The New Right-Wing Idol: Working Moms

    In the bloody U.K. Cabinet shakeup, a female minister’s promotion came with the prefix ‘working mother.’ Why are conservatives on both sides of the pond keen to court this constituency?

    The blood on the floor is especially vivid in UK politics right now, spattered over the bodies of the dispatched “male, pale, and stale” ministers suddenly ejected from David Cameron’s Cabinet.

    In their place comes what Britain’s Conservative Party hopes will benefit its electoral chances: a slight increase in the number of female ministers, their promotions reported in glaringly sexist terms in today’s Daily Mail in terms of a fashion parade on the “Downing Street catwalk.” In those women’s shadows comes one of the emptiest, yet telling phrases attached to women in public life today: “working mother.” The prefix was immediately attached to Nicky Morgan, the newly appointed UK Education Secretary.

  • Prostitute Halla Muhammed Maarouf, 23, spends the afternoon with a customer in her apartment. (Andrea Bruce Woodall/The Washington Post)

    Death Watch

    Who’s Murdering Baghdad’s Prostitutes?

    The slaughter of 29 women and two men in an alleged house of prostitution shows the danger of the Iraqi government’s reliance on Shia militias for its defense.

    BAGHDAD, Iraq — If the gunmen who carried out a mass killing Saturday night escape punishment it will be not only because the victims were prostitutes, all too often friendless and forgotten, but also because the government needs to keep the murderers on its side.

    Officially, Iraq’s Ministry of the Interior is still investigating the crime, but many Iraqis believe it’s clear who is responsible. They say the killing was carried out by members of a local Shia militia, religious extremists whose armed members both cooperate and compete with the government for control of the area where the killing occurred.

  • A 16-year-old girl who was gang-raped sits with her mother, in Dabra, India, Oct. 18, 2012. (Enrico Fabian/The New York Times, via Redux)


    How India’s Elites Encourage Rape

    While one horror story after another emerges from India’s countryside, its intellectuals seem confused about where to draw the line against rape in their own circles.

    DELHI — The words “Uttar Pradesh,” the name of the largely impoverished and rural state in northeast India between New Delhi and Nepal, have come to be synonymous with rape. More than 3,000 cases were registered last year, according to official statistics. Nobody can say how many go unreported, and the horror stories just keep on coming. Worse still, in the aftermath of the shocking gang rape and murder of two teenage girls found hanging from a tree on May 27 in Badaun, Uttar Pradesh, there has been an alarming spike in crimes against women there.

    It’s not like the rest of the country feels much safer. On July 11, a village council in Jharkhand, Bihar, ordered the rape of a 14-year-old girl as punishment for a crime her brother committed. And this is not the first time that the kangaroo courts of rural India have made such appalling judgments. Recently another woman was shot dead for resisting rape in Meghalaya. Since the highly publicized gang rape and murder of a young woman in Delhi in 2012, such reports have become ever more common.

  • Anindito Mukherjee/Reuters

    Women’s Rights

    India’s ‘Honorable Rape’ Myth

    In India’s countryside, where the absence of law and order creates a breeding ground for revenge, village councils can order women to be gang-raped to restore another family’s honor.

    Most of us have heard of the term “honor killings,” which are committed against women who are thought to have dishonored their families through their sexual or romantic choices. We often speak of the link of honor and murder. What about rape?

    In Hindi, a common way to refer to rape is “izzat lootna,” which translates into being robbed of one’s izzat, or honor. Far from being the woman’s honor that is stolen, it is the men—husbands, fathers or brothers—who often see themselves as the real victims.

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    Crowdsourcing Human Rights

    A new internet tool seeks to put activists in closed societies in touch with skilled people in the free world who can help them. It’s crowdsourcing for human rights.

    When legendary former Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky sought help from the outside world to fight for freedom decades ago, he had to rely largely on individuals he knew to get help from outside the Iron Curtain. The dissidents of the 21st century now have a new tool to connect them instantly over the internet to hundreds if not thousands of people around the world already standing ready to pitch in.

    Today, the organization Advancing Human Rights will unveil a new web platform called Movements.org, a site where dissidents and human rights activists can go to access a growing network of lawyers, publicists, journalists, and human rights advocates and ask them for help on any range of tasks from seeking asylum, organizing their efforts, or just getting the word out to the world about their struggle. The project began with a $250,000 seed grant provided by Google, which has been expanding its involvement in the internet freedom space.

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    On Trial

    The Jihadi Wore Lingerie

    London-born Nawal Msaad is on trial at the Old Bailey after being arrested at Heathrow with rolled-up 500-euro notes worth $27,000 in her panties—allegedly for jihadi fighters in Syria.

    She is well-dressed, confident and beautiful, but the authorities claim this 27-year-old British student is also part of a terrorist plot to fund jihadi fighters in Syria.

    Nawal Msaad, who was born in London, was arrested in January at Heathrow Airport before she could board a flight to Turkey when officials discovered tightly rolled 500-euro bills worth $27,000 in her underwear.


    Death Spiral

    Israel: Murdered Teenagers, Dying Hopes

    As Israel mourns its politicians vow retribution. Hamas threatens to “open the gates of hell.” Could U.S. diplomacy have prevented the tragedy? The sad fact: it didn’t.

    AMMAN, Jordan — The tragic murder of three Israeli teens on the West Bank has their nation in mourning. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed retaliation. “They were kidnapped and murdered in cold blood by human animals,” he said, declaring “Hamas will pay.” Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz blames not only Hamas, but the Palestinian Authority, which denounced the kidnappings. Steinitz said it should have protected the hitchhikers, who came from an Israeli settlement near Hebron. Hamas, for its part, denied any role in the kidnapping and the killing, but threatened that an Israeli attack would “open the gates of hell.”

    In fact, those gates have been open for a long time, and this tragedy makes it all too clear just how badly peaceful activism and U.S.-led diplomacy have failed to stop the spiral toward horrific violence in the Holy Land.